By: Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD)
July 29, 2013 - The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District is issuing an air quality health advisory to notify the public of the potential for poor air quality conditions in Plumas, Sierra and Nevada Counties due to smoke from multiple fires in Oregon and the Aspen Fire near Fresno. The Oregon fires are especially heavy smoke producers, and in a somewhat unusual pattern the smoke has been traveling offshore, then south over the ocean and back inland in the San Francisco Bay Area. Additionally, smoke from the Aspen Fire has been drifting north along the foothills at a different elevation. This pattern is likely to continue through Tuesday and possibly beyond. Smoke concentrations are expected to intermittently be in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range throughout the region, and are expected to vary during the course of each day depending on wind speed, wind direction and other smoke dispersion factors. Smoke may settle in low-lying areas overnight and is likely to be spread across the northern Sierras throughout the daytime hours.
If you smell smoke, or see smoke around you, consider restricting your outside activities. Until the potential for poor air quality subsides, individuals should consider taking the following actions:
- Healthy people should delay strenuous exercise, particularly when they can smell smoke.
- Children and elderly people should consider avoiding outdoor activities, particularly prolonged outdoor exertion.
- People with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors when smoke can be seen or smelled outside. Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan.
- Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or severe fatigue. This is important for not only people with chronic lung or heart disease, but also for individuals who have not been previously diagnosed with such illnesses. Smoke can 'unmask' or produce symptoms of such diseases.
- Keep airways moist by drinking lots of water. Breathing through a warm, wet washcloth can also help relieve dryness.
In general, when smoke concentrations are elevated it is advisable to stay indoors with windows and doors closed and set air-conditioners on 're-circulate.' Do not run swamp coolers or whole house fans.
Disposable particulate respirators found at hardware stores can be effective at reducing exposure to smoke particles as long as they seal closely to the wearer's face. Look for respirators that have two straps and have the words 'NIOSH' and either 'P100' or 'N95' printed on the filter material. Warning: particulate respirators will not provide complete protection in very smoky conditions and may even interfere with proper breathing. It should also be noted that there is some controversy surrounding the use of particulate respirators because of the many variables that may hinder their proper use.
When feasible, pets should be brought indoors when outdoor air quality is poor.
Studies have linked fine particulate matter (smoke) with significant health problems, including work and school absences, respiratory related hospital admissions, aggravated asthma, acute respiratory symptoms (including severe chest pain, gasping, and aggravated coughing), chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, and premature death.
A good internet site for current local fire information is www.yubanet.com.
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