Sacramento fire stations no longer will distribute masks to the public after safety concerns were raised by the county, officials said.
Peter Beilenson, the county’s Department of Health Services director, said the county decided to stop handing out the masks because they aren’t necessary and are potentially harmful. About 67,000 free N95 respirators have been distributed at fire stations across the region.
Rather than relying on the masks, Beilenson said the county is urging people to stay indoors — a much more effective solution to the unhealthy air quality caused by smoke from the Camp fire.
An ashy haze has blanketed many parts of Northern California, leading to an “unhealthy” air quality index. That means most people who breathe the air there can experience health problems, regardless of age or fitness level, said Jenny Tan, a spokeswoman for the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District.
Several Bay Area and Sacramento area schools have closed because of poor air quality from the Camp fire’s smoke, including UC Berkeley, Mills College, Stanford University, the University of the Pacific, Cal State East Bay and Sacramento State University.
When UC Davis announced it was closing its campus because of smoke, it offered students a limited amount of face masks.
The city of Sacramento said in a statement that staff will continue distributing its remaining N95 masks.
Beilenson said the masks don’t fit children and men with beards, and can be dangerous for those with heart and respiratory diseases. The masks can make it more difficult to breathe because of carbon dioxide buildup, he said.
“Thats a good 50 plus of the population that couldn't benefit from them,” he said.
Though some healthy adults could benefit from wearing them, the face masks offer too much of a false sense of security and they would need to be fitted specifically for each person, Beilenson said.