Because it's sometimes impossible to keep the smoke from regional wildfires out of the house, local residents are buying air purifiers — and finding that the appliances clean up the smell and irritating effects in a couple of hours.
"I definitely feel a difference. We had headaches and dizziness, but now those are gone," says Mona Therese Winston, an Ashland yoga instructor. "Clean air is very important in the breathing exercises of yoga. People say I'm a little hysterical about it, but it's critical."
Find stories, photos, maps and links on the Southern Oregon wildfires at www.mailtribune.com/fires
After researching air purifiers online, Winston plunked down $100 for a Filtrete Ultra Quiet purifier at Bi-Mart and says it was a great investment for these smoky times.
Air purifiers have been flying off the shelf at the Ashland Bi-Mart, which ran out for a few days before a new supply arrived. The best one for the money, says Patrick Jensen of the west Medford Bi-Mart, is the Honeywell S-5700 for $130, which filters out 99.7 percent of pollutants. There's also a Black & Decker for $90, he says.
Darla Claire Anderson of Ashland, who bought the Filtrete, notes: "It does make the room smell fresh, and it seemed to take about an hour with the door closed. The only thing I don't like about it is the size of room it can filter efficiently is a 10-by-12. They were out of the larger ones. I would definitely buy a larger one for the living room when they become available. I'm very happy with my decision, considering the lingering smoke in the valley."
Connie Dawson of Ashland Ace Hardware says the store's best-seller is the Holmes Hepa-Type, with 99.97 percent filtration. It promises to remove airborne pollutants such as dust, smoke, pollen and tobacco fumes. It has a "clean air deliver rate" of 120 cubic feet per minute. That's an index used to rate air purifiers.
Many people are resorting to dust masks or respirators, Dawson said. The N95 mask filters out 95 percent of smoke, and the store sold 1,100 of them last week. They cost $6 each or $23 for a 20-pack.
Local Grange Co-ops reported on Tuesday that they have the masks available for sale individually at seven locations throughout Southern Oregon. Red Cross and the Jackson County Public Health Department also are distributing them for free.
Rebecca Morrison-Stoney bought up all the air purifiers that Sears in Medford had, as well as several on Craigslist, and delivered them to many area family members as well as two offices she works at, she reported in a Facebook survey.
"They have made a huge difference," she said. "The one limitation is the square feet they cover. ... One of our company software providers heard about our fires and shipped us two more for our office. We now have five air purifiers running in our Medford office, and it definitely makes a difference. Before, our air was smoky inside and we all had various symptoms. Things are much improved.
"I also bought plenty of N95 masks for the staff and family. Those are not getting used as much as I would have thought."
Local singer Beth Wishes said, "I knew this smoke would go on for weeks, so I bought a Honeywell Ionic kind, $150 at Bi-Mart, and it seems to be working well if I keep it going on high. The smoke smell has gone from the house. Our AC is just a wall-mount thing that brings in air from outside, hardly filtered at all. So between the two devices, it's bearable in here."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.