Air quality affected by wildfire smoke
Air monitors in our region today are reporting ‘unhealthy’ levels of particulate matter in the air due to wildfire smoke, largely from fires burning in British Columbia. San Juan County Health & Community Services is advising the public to limit time spent outdoors and avoid strenuous activities outdoors.
Outdoor smoke contains very small particles and gases, including carbon monoxide. These particles can get into your eyes and lungs where they can cause the following health effects:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation (burning eyes and runny nose)
- Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and headache
- Aggravation of existing lung, heart and circulatory conditions, including asthma and angina
Inhaling smoke is not good for anyone, even healthy people. However, the following sensitive groups are more likely to have health effects from breathing smoke:
- People with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including bronchitis and emphysema.
- People with respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, colds, or flu.
- People with existing heart or circulatory problems, such as dysrhythmias, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and angina.
- People with a prior history of heart attack or stroke.
- Infants and children under 18 because their lungs and airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.
- Older adults (over age 65) because they are more likely to have unrecognized heart or lung diseases.
- Pregnant women because both the mother and fetus are at increased risk of health effects.
- People who smoke because they are more likely to already have lower lung function and lung diseases.
- People with diabetes because they are more likely to have an undiagnosed cardiovascular disease.
Contact your health care provider if you are experiencing smoke related symptoms and are concerned about health effects. If your symptoms are serious and you are having trouble breathing, dial 911.
The public can view air quality monitoring stations in our area and across the State by viewing Washington’s Air Monitoring Network.
You can also view more information at the Washington Smoke Blog.