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Healthline Connects

After the Fires: Safe Clean Up


Fires raging in California are destroying lives and property. People returning to their homes to clean-up may feel overwhelmed and bewildered. With so many electronics, synthetics and other toxic products in our homes these days, it is important to be extremely careful during cleanup. Ash will likely have cancer-causing chemicals. Therefore, it is important to avoid exposure to the skin, lungs, nose and throat. The California Department of Health Services recommends the following:

  • Do not allow kids to play in the ash
  • Wash off toys before allowing kids to play with them
  • Wear gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid skin contact
  • Wash any ash off of your skin as soon as possible
  • Wash any fruits or vegetables thoroughly before eating them
  • Avoid using leaf blowers or any other tools that will distribute ash into the air
  • Avoid use of shop vacuums which blow particles into the air. Use a HEPA filter vacuum instead
  • Use a well fitting dust mask rated N-95 or P-100 for cleanup to avoid breathing particles
  • People with heart, lung disease and asthma should avoid clean up of ash and use of a mask unless cleared to do so by their physician
  • The Regional Water Control Quality Board asks us not to wash ash into storm drains to avoid contaminating the water supply
  • Collect ash in regular plastic trash bags and dispose of it, avoiding disturbance of contents
  • Gently sweep and dust indoor surfaces with a damp cloth
Finally, don't forget to hose down your pets if they have been exposed to ash. The chemicals in ash may affect them, too.

Thank you ocgirl for use of photo, Madjeska Fire.
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