Air quality remains dicey in Lolo, opinions mixed on protection masks


MISSOULA, Mont. - On Thursday afternoon Missoula air quality specialists reported that air quality in Lolo is listed as Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Staff at Lolo Drug, in Lolo, have been giving away protection masks for free, one per person.

Opinions are mixed on just how effective N-95 masks are for folks dealing with wildfire smoke. An attendant on the American Lung Association'shelp line told NBC Montana that wearing the masks is better than nothing, provided the user makes sure to get a secure fit.

A pharmacist at Lolo Drug, Ross Roadarmel, agreed, clarifying that people should still make sure to minimize their exposure to smoke as much as possible.

"For when [people] have to go outdoors, it will really slow down the volume of smoke that they inhale," said Roadarmel.

The Missoula City-County Health Department does not recommend using the masks, however. Benjamin Schmidt, an air quality specialist with the department, told NBC Montana that the masks create extra exertion for the wearer, even though the wearer could be just getting minimal protection from the mask.

"If you do not have a very good seal around the edges of the mask, you may be getting minimal protection from that mask yet still get the extra effort of trying to breathe through it," said Schmidt.

Here are some links to websites that include literature about the effectiveness about the masks:

CDC Wildfire Factsheet

Fire and Smoke Health Concerns FAQ