EPA wildfire smoke grants aim to improve indoor air quality

When wildfire smoke chokes Montana’s air and turns the sky unnatural hues of orange and gray, public health experts issue familiar advice: Stay indoors. 

But what if the air inside isn’t really that much better than the smoky, lung- and eye-irritating mixture circulating outside?

Wildfire smoke fills the Missoula Valley in July 2021, at times pushing air quality levels to “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or “unhealthy” for everyone.


According to a panel of experts and officials who met in Missoula Thursday morning, recent data from inside Missoula buildings shows that’s the case. While inside air may be cooler and seem less smoky, it often still has harmful levels of smoke particulates. That’s because it came from outside. 

“One of the struggles with this is that HVAC systems take outside air and then put it inside,” said Sarah Coefield, an air-quality specialist with the Missoula City-County Public Health Department. “There’s more smoke coming inside than you would hope.”

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