Department of Ecology News Release - August 14, 2012

12-264

Air pollution from wildfires calls for special care

SPOKANE--Continued dry weather and several wildfires in Washington and Oregon have prompted the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to remind residents to take precautions to protect their health. 

Air quality monitors across Central and Eastern Washington are showing that levels of fine particles from wildfire smoke are significantly higher than a healthy level. As of 11 a.m. today, many monitors indicate air quality is unhealthy for sensitive people.  A monitor in Ellensburg reports air quality there is unhealthy for everyone.

 “Wildfires are dumping smoke on us and the weather forecast is not indicating a change anytime soon, so this smoke could be around for awhile,” said Karen Wood who manages Ecology’s Air Quality Program in Washington’s 13 easternmost counties.

Wildfires produce significant smoke, which can harm your health. The biggest threat comes from the fine particles in smoke. These tiny particles can get into your eyes and lungs, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illness such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.

When there are wildfires in an area or region, the severity of the smoke impacts depends on weather patterns. If the air isn’t moving, the concentration of fine particles increases. Smoke from a fire can travel rapidly, affecting air quality hundreds of miles downwind.

Smoke from wildfires is especially harmful for those with existing health conditions.  The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit the time that they spend outdoors when smoke is in the air.

Children also are more susceptible to smoke because:

When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may be affected. To protect yourself, it’s important to limit your exposure to smoke — especially if you are susceptible.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from wildfire smoke:

###

Media Contact:

For more information:

Ecology's Air website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/air.html

Washington Air Quality Advisory:  https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.ltr.aspx

Air Quality monitors: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.ltr.aspx

Ecology’s social media: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html