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For the first time in recent history, the east coast of the United States is dealing with serious wildfire conditions. These smoky conditions have left the eastern United States with some of the worst air quality conditions in the entire world. When wildfires occur, regardless of how they are started, they lead to smoky, ash-filled air that can be hazardous to your health. 

While the United States east coast may be dealing with some of its smokiest conditions ever, the west coast of the United States is fairly used to these conditions. On a near-annual basis, west coast wildfires occurring in dry areas burn quickly and violently, leading to a blanket of smoke that can cover an entire state.

If you are like most Americans, you still need to use your car during smoky conditions, so while you are driving, is there a way to relieve the poor air quality while staying safe? Here is everything you need to know about the recirculate button on your car’s air conditioning system, and how it can help you combat poor air quality.

Why is wildfire smoke bad for you?

Before we talk about how your vehicle can help you combat poor air quality, it is important to explain why wildfire smoke is bad for your health. With wildfires, it is obvious that the fire itself is a danger if you are in the immediate area. However, the smoke and ash from these wildfires lead to more health dangers for a larger group of people.

When wildfires burn, an enormous amount of smoke and ash is released, which can legitimately cover entire states in a grey and orange blanket of pollution. Over time, breathing in this low-quality air can lead to health issues.

Wildfire smoke alone, in some instances, is more harmful to your body than many other types of smoke. According to Stanford, areas with a high amount of wildfire smoke are giving some residents the same amount of smoke inhalation as smoking seven cigarettes a day.

To combat this wildfire smoke, it is essential to wear a high-quality air filtration mask like an N95 or P100 mask while outside. It is also vital to ensure you have some sort of air filtration system in your house and a good cabin air filter in your car.

What does a recirculate button do?

When pressed, a car’s recirculate button recirculates the air in your vehicle, using the air already found in your car to power the air conditioning system in your car. This feature is incredibly useful, especially when the air outside of your vehicle is of lower quality than the air in the cabin. With the press of a button, your vehicle can use the air found inside your car instead of the dirty air from outside.

Of course, vehicles already have a cabin air filter which is made to filter the air from outside as it comes through your vehicle’s air conditioning system.But unless you have a HEPA-level air filter, your vehicle’s recirculation feature is one of the best ways to breathe in healthy, clean air while driving in high-pollution situations.

What does a recirculation button look like?

CBS News explains that the recirculation button in your vehicle looks like a picture of your vehicle with a small U shape arrow. When pressed, this button typically lights up to show you that it is active. In many cases, recirculation controls are automatically turned on when you turn on max AC, but many vehicles need this button manually pressed to start recirculation.

Your vehicle’s air recirculation feature is a great way to breathe healthy, clean air while driving. If you are stuck driving in wildfire conditions, make sure you use it to your advantage!


How to Stay Safe if You Have to Drive Through Wildfire Smoke