Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Air quality standards drop due to wildfire smoke

LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Air Quality Management District reported Thursday that smoke from wildfires in the county and in Mendocino County have resulted in smoke, haze and degraded air quality that exceed state and federal health standards for particulate.


In addition to the 14,000-acre Walker Fire, multiple large fires exist to the east, south, north and west of Lake County, so smoke continues to enter the basin no matter where the wind originates, Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported.


All of Northern California is being impacted by severely degraded air quality and many areas are reporting markedly higher levels than Lake County, according to Reynolds.


Air monitoring data in Lakeport, Anderson Springs and Glenbrook showed violations of health-based standards to include the small respirable particulate state Ambient Air Quality Standard at all sites by 155 percent to 223 percent, Reynolds said. The federal ultrafine, inhalable, particulate air standard was exceeded by 278 percent.


These values are considered representative of areas not adjacent to fires in Lake County; Reynolds said values may be higher in those areas.


Smokey conditions can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and air passages, which can be hazardous in young children, the elderly, individuals with heart conditions or chronic lung disease such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.


Even though local hospitals report no unusual increases in illness likely to be related to poor air quality, Lake County health officials recommend taking simple precautions in order to stay healthy.


Because of the uncertainty of fire conditions, Lake County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait advises residents near the fires to be prepared. Individuals with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung or heart diseases should make sure that they have at least a five-day supply of any prescribed medications. Individuals with asthma should carefully follow their asthma management plans.


Anyone, regardless of known health conditions, should seek medical attention if they experience unusual symptoms of chest pain, chest tightness, or shortness of breath.


Residents who live near the affected areas should be prepared to stay indoors, avoid vigorous physical activity and check for a "recirculation" function on the air conditioner.


If smoke is present, it will be easier to breathe indoors if air is recirculating instead of drawing smoky air from outdoors. Strong consideration should be given to moving planned outdoor events to an indoor location or rescheduling them, especially if they involve sports or similar activities.


The poor air quality is a direct result of these dispersed, numerous wildfires within the California Coastal Mountains, said Reynolds. Smoke is trapped in the cooler marine air layer and transported inland, causing the smoke impacts. At times smoke can be transported to sea within a circulation cell, and then return back over northern California in a wide band of smoke-filled air.


The smoke and sunlight cause chemical reactions in the air that further reduces visibility by forming secondary particles in addition to those already in the smoke, Reynolds explained. These particles draw the moisture out of the air, growing in number and size, making the haze even worse.


Residual haze and particulate from these fires can be expected to continue throughout areas of Northern California until the fires are out, Reynolds said.


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