To: All Media
From: Teri Thalhofer RN, BSN, Director
North Central Public Health District
Subject: Air Quality Over The Weekend
North Central Public Health District urges people across the state to take precautions as air quality levels reach potentially unhealthy levels this weekend. Forecasts are predicting weather that could bring prolonged wildfire smoke exposure to the communities in and around Wasco, Sherman, and Gilliam counties. Smoke levels can rise and fall depending on weather factors including wind direction.
“Wildfire smoke from the Rowena fire may increase the risk of illness especially for older adults, young children, and people with asthma, respiratory, or heart conditions,” said Teri Thalhofer, RN, BSN, North Central Public Health District Director. “We encourage people to monitor air quality conditions while planning weekend activities.”
Public health officials urge all Oregonians to take the following precautions to avoid health problems during hot, smoky conditions:
- Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area. Residents can get the latest information by visiting the Oregon Smoke blog: Oregonsmoke.blogspot.com or call 2-1-1 Info.
- Avoid outdoor activities when air quality is unhealthy and hazardous. Those with heart or lung problems, as well as young children, are especially vulnerable.
- Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors and closing all windows and doors.
- Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution such as burning cigarettes and candles; using gas, propane, and wood burning stoves and furnaces; cooking; and vacuuming.
- Individuals with heart disease or lung diseases such as asthma should follow their health care provider’s advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms.
- How healthy is the air in your community? Check DEQ’s Air Quality Index to see real-time air monitoring data from monitors placed around Oregon.
What if your community doesn’t have an air quality monitor?
Monitoring locations are limited and pollution levels may be higher in some areas, especially those closer to a wildfire:
Conduct a visual assessment: People can conduct a visual assessment of nearby smoke to quickly get a sense of air quality levels. Generally, if you can see up to 15 miles, the air quality is probably good. If you can see less than one mile, the air quality is very unhealthy and everyone should avoid outdoor activities. Refer to the descriptions below for more information based on how far you can see in various conditions:
Between 5-15 miles: Air quality is moderate and beginning to deteriorate, and is generally healthy, except possibly for smoke sensitive persons. The general public should avoid prolonged exposure if conditions are smoky to the point where visibility is closer to the 5 mile range.
If under 5 miles: The air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.
If under 3 miles: The air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness should avoid all outdoor activities.
If under 1 mile: The air quality is very unhealthy, and in some cases may be hazardous. Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.
- Visit the Oregon Health Authority’s wildfire web page.
- For more information on using the visibility index during wildfires, visit www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/wildfires/visibility.htm
- For information on smoke and wildfires in Oregon, visit http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/
(For more information, please contact North Central Public Health District at (541) 506-2600 or visit us on the web at www.ncphd.org.)
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