Displaced residents of Lake and Monterey counties who are returning to areas burned by recent wildfires should be cautious about cleaning up ash left behind by the blaze, according to the California
Department of Public Health.
Ash from trees and vegetative matter is relatively non-toxic, but ash from burned homes and commercial structures can contain chemicals, asbestos and other substances that can be toxic if inhaled or touched with wet skin, according to the CDPH.
Ashes can irritate the nose, throat and lungs if inhaled. It can also cause coughing or trigger asthma attacks, according to the CDPH.
In the event of contact with human skin, affected residents are advised to wash ashes off as soon as possible, since some wet ash can cause chemical burns.
Avoid letting children play in the ash and wash the ash off toys before letting children play with them, CDPH officials said. It's also good to clean the ashes off of pets.
The use of leaf blowers and vacuum cleaners is not recommended, as they can blow ash particles into the air where they can be inhaled, according to the CDPH.
Gardeners are also advised to wash the ashes off of any homegrown fruits or vegetables before consumption.