Monday, July 21, 2014

Air Time: We monitor smoke so you can protect your health

Wildfire UPDATE

Wildfires have been causing smoky, hazy air off and on throughout the state. The severity of the smoke impacts depends on weather patterns. If the air isn’t moving, the concentration of fine particles increases in the air. Smoke from fires can travel rapidly, affecting air quality hundreds of miles downwind.

A wall of smoke from the Chiwaukum Creek fire looms over Plain, WA.
Photo courtesy of Dominic Urbano
According to the Washington Department of Health, breathing smoke from wildfires can make anyone cough or wheeze, and people who have asthma or another lung disease may experience more severe symptoms.

As pollutant particles build up in the respiratory system, they can cause several health problems including burning eyes, runny noses, and illnesses such as bronchitis.

Protect your health

Here are some steps you can take to protect your health from wildfire smoke:
  • People who are sensitive to air pollution should limit the time spent outdoors.
  • When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may be affected. To protect yourself, it’s important to limit your exposure to smoke.
  • Pay attention to air quality reports. The Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) is a tool used to inform people about the health effects of air pollution. WAQA uses color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.
  • Use common sense. Air quality monitors may not have immediate information on conditions in your specific area. If it looks and smells smoky outside, it’s probably not a good time to go for a jog, mow the lawn or allow children to play outdoors. Avoid physical activity and stay indoors with windows and doors closed.
  • Keep smoke out. Turn on your air conditioner and keep the fresh-air intake closed and set the unit to recirculate. Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA)filter to reduce indoor air pollution, if one is available to you.

Stay alert

There are many ways to stay current on Washington wildfires.

The Washington State Military Department’s Emergency Management Division is providing regular online updates on fire response efforts.

For current air quality data related to smoke, bookmark

If you are on Twitter, follow the hashtags:

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