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newsrel -- California Smoke Warning Update

Posted: 25 Jul 2008 16:09:04
Wildfires in California continue and large areas with smoke
require public remain informed. 

Release 08-58
July 25, 2008
Dimitri Stanich

Health advisory for Northern California

Wildfires in Northwest California are creating large banks of
smoke reaching as far south as Sacramento

AQIs in Unhealthy range expected to continue through weekend

SACRAMENTO -- The fires continue to pour heavy smoke into
communities in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley and
mountain communities. Air quality has been well into the
Hazardous category on back-to-back days in Trinity County in
particular. Particulate matter, that can get deep into your
lungs, exceeded the federal standard for clean air by almost 12
times. The weather patterns in recent days have carried the
smoke progressively farther south and they are expected to reach
the Sacramento area over the next days.

County and Tribal officials have opened clean air shelters in
Trinity and Humboldt counties and further actions are being
actively pursued to protect the residents of the area. The Air
Resources Board will be setting up three additional air
monitoring sites to assist the District with its forecasting and
health advisories. Monitoring support is also being provided
through the ARB from samplers provided by the San Diego County
Air Pollution Control District, the US EPA in North Carolina,
the US Forest Service, the NCUAQMD, and the local tribes.

The lower Sacramento Valley will continue to see periods of
smoke for the next several days as it moves from the fire areas
south with upper level winds. Expect period of the day with
reduced visibility and elevated particulate concentrations. The
graphic below shows the potential breadth and relative
concentration of the smoke plume. Please consult your local air
quality agency for up-to date information on local conditions.

http://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/nr062308b.htm - -

Due to continuing smoke from the many wildfires burning around
the state, the Air Resources Board and numerous local air
quality agencies in Northern California recommend individuals in
areas with 'Unhealthy' air quality indexes suspend outdoor
activities. For information on air quality in your area go to
www.Airnow.gov and use the drop down menu to select California.

The following pictures, from different vantage points, were
provided by the North Coast district of the Hoopa Valley.

http://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/nr062308b.htm - -

An individual can approximate air quality levels by using simple
visibility measurements. from weather reports and airport
visibility observations. With that information, one can estimate
air quality at that time is *Moderate* if visibility is 6-9 miles
, 'Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups' at 3-5 miles, 'Unhealthy' at
1.5 to almost three miles, 'Very Unhealthy' between 1 and 1.5
miles and 'Hazardous' when visibility is less than a mile.
Alternatively, a person can simply make an estimate of his or
her own. For that, be sure you have the sun at your back and use
an object at a known distance from your position (Internet
mapping programs such as Google or Yahoo Maps can be very

Air quality and health officials are urging the public to stay
informed about regional air pollution levels through local media
and air pollution control district webpages, and take the
following actions when the air is unhealthy:

    * Stay indoors with windows and doors closed. Run window
air-conditioners on the "re-circulate" setting, if available;
    * Most residential central air conditioning systems
re-circulate the air inside the home, so these can be operated
normally; however, a small percentage of newer homes have
mechanical ventilation systems that actively bring in outdoor
air, and these should be turned off or set to a "re-circulate"
mode, if available. Do not run swamp coolers or whole house
    * Minimize or stop outdoor activities, especially exercise,
during smoky conditions; and,
    * People in a "high risk" group or those who cannot find
adequate shelter from the smoke need to move to an emergency

If you must be outside in a smoky area, healthy individuals may
wish to wear a mask called a "particulate respirator." These
resemble common dust masks but are substantially more effective
at removing the airborne small particles produced from fires.
Choose one that has two straps and has NIOSH, and either N95 or
P100 printed on it and follow the manufacturer's instructions
carefully. For more information on N-95 or P100 go to the
California Department of Public Health web page here.

It is harder to breathe with these masks on so check with your
doctor before using one if you have heart or lung disease, and
take frequent rests if you must work. Do not use bandanas (wet
or dry), paper masks, or tissues held over the mouth and nose as
these are ineffective and will not protect your lungs from
wildfire smoke. N-95 or P-100 respirators work best when sealed
closely to the face. Beards defeat the needed seal.

The most effective way to reduce exposure and avoid the ill
effects of smoke is to stay indoors. Eliminate outdoor
activities while air quality is in the unhealthy range. Exposure
and the ensuing health effects are dependent on the amount of
time spent outside, level of exertion, and air quality. Effects
can be as mild as irritation of eye, nose and throat; and
headache; or as serious as triggered asthma episodes or stresses
on weakened cardiovascular systems.

Children and older individuals should be especially careful when
the threat of exposure is high. Those with pre-existing heart and
lung problems should consider curtailing activities at the AQI
level of Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Even healthy people may
experience some symptoms in smoky conditions.

It is especially important for people with respiratory or heart
disease monitor their health. If their symptoms worsen they
should immediately consult with their health care providers.
Individuals with moderate or severe heart or respiratory disease
should consider alternatives and stay away from areas with high
smoke concentrations. Such individuals should evaluate whether
evacuation might actually cause greater exposure than staying at
home using other precautions described above if smoke is already
present in substantial quantities.

Additionally, small pets can also be impacted by unhealthy air
and should be brought indoors if possible.

Making the decision to cancel or reschedule active outdoor
events is difficult, but when smoke levels reach unhealthy
levels coupled with very high temperatures, the prudent decision
is to protect yours and the health of others.

Public officials may take the precautions of closing schools and
businesses, canceling public events and calling for evacuation.
If you are evacuated, make sure to drive with the windows rolled
up and the air conditioner set to re-circulate.

For current information about local smoke conditions, find your
local air quality management group here:
http://www.arb.ca.gov/capcoa/roster.htm .

For current and forecast particulate matter AQI information go
here: http://www.airnow.gov/ .

More information on how to protect yourself is available go
here: http://www.airquality.org/smokeimpact/.

For a guide for public officials on wildfire smoke go here:
http://www.arb.ca.gov/smp/progdev/pubeduc/wfgv8.pdf .

Below are photos of filters used to in monitors that measure
particulate matter in the air. The samples ran for about one
day. The white filter is a blank unexposed filter. The brown one
is from Willits and the blackest one is from Ukiah. The Ukiah
sample would be labeled 'Very Unhealthy.' Images courtesy of
Mendocino County Air Pollution Control District. You can see
their webpage here: http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/aqmd/index.htm

http://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/nr062308b.htm - -


The Air Resources Board is a department of the California
Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and
protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through
effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and
considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air
pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain
health based air quality standards.

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