Air quality and health update

WA firesFrom Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) and the health departments of Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap counties,  who are committed to providing residents with health information to make decisions for their families:

Yesterday, smoke was high up in the air, leaving our ground-level air cleaner than it looked. But pollution levels on the ground have now increased, making our air MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS in all four counties. In the Cascade foothills and areas close to active fires the air may be worse:  UNHEALTHY or VERY UNHEALTHY. The closer you are to a wildfire, the greater risk to your health. Everyone’s health situation is unique, so check with your health care provider if you have concerns.

You can limit your exposure to smoke and ash by staying indoors.

 It is important to distinguish between smoke and the ash that people are seeing on cars and in the air. Smoke is fine particulate matter that is mostly invisible to the human eye but dangerous because it is so small it can penetrate deep into the lungs. Ash is large particulate matter which is visible, but cannot penetrate deep into the lungs. Each can have different health impacts. The human body is better equipped to filter out larger particles because of the hairs in your nose or when you close your mouth or eyes.

During times of poor air quality, people in sensitive groups should monitor air quality and limit time spent outdoors. These groups include:

  • Adults older than 65.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Infants and children.
  • People with heart or lung disease, such as asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • People with diabetes.
  • People who have had a stroke.

Conditions may change quickly today across the region depending on your location. Check the graphic on the PSCAA’s home page for up-to-date air quality information.

How to use the graphic on PSCAA website:

  1. On the home page find your county/location on the left-hand side and click on it.
  2. Find your group – Healthy Adults or Sensitive Groups
  3. Determine your activity level to see what is recommended.

Other resources from the Washington State Health Department:

  • Smoke From Fires information
  • “Wildfire Smoke and Face Mask Fact Sheet”: If you must be outside, it’s important to wear the right kind of mask. Facemasks do not work well on small children or people with beards due to issues of fit/seal. We recommend that people with pre-existing heart or lung conditions consult a health care provider about using a mask because wearing a mask can make it more difficult to breathe.
  • Air Pollution and School Activities Guide”: This provides guidance about school closures for the different air quality levels. It’s a helpful for making decisions about when to move or postpone outdoors events youth activities and child daycare facilities.

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