August 20 - 25, 2015
The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District is issuing an air
quality health advisory through Tuesday for Plumas County due to smoke from
fires in northwest California. Wildfire complexes in the Shasta-Trinity and
Six Rivers area are producing heavy smoke, some of which is expected to
travel eastward into the Sierras. Smoke concentrations are likely to reach
the Unhealthy or Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range off and on over the
next several days, especially in northwest Plumas County, as the main
plumes and reservoirs of smoke ebb and flow across the landscape.
Smoke is primarily fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in
diameter (PM 2.5), which can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. People with
heart or lung disease, older adults and children are especially sensitive
to the health effects of smoke. Aggravation of heart or lung disease,
severe breathing difficulty and premature mortality could occur in people
with cardiopulmonary disease and older adults, while increased respiratory
effects may be evident in the general population.
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 when they can smell and
see smoke. That applies especially to school gym classes and athletic
practices. Young athletes are considered sensitive individuals and any
perceived benefits from a smoky workout could be outweighed by the negative
impacts of the smoke inhaled during that workout.
- 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.
- If possible, sensitive individuals should consider relocating to another
location that is not currently experiencing smoke impacts for a few days to
avoid long term exposure.
- 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. When
feasible, pets should be brought indoors when outdoor air quality is poor.
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. Masks can create a false sense of security and should not
replace reducing activity or exposure. If you need to wear a mask, wear
the correct type of mask - 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.
Studies have linked fine particulate matter (smoke) with work and school
absences, respiratory related hospital admissions and health problems,
including burning eyes, aggravated asthma, acute respiratory symptoms
(including severe chest pain, gasping, and aggravated coughing), chronic
bronchitis, decreased lung function, and premature death. Increased ozone
exacerbates these health effects. In addition to the acute health effects
of smoke, people may experience some cumulative effects, such as a dry
cough and chest discomfort.