FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Jim Shames, Health Officer, 541-951-8838, Katherine Benenati, DEQ, 541-686-7997
DATE OF RELEASE: August 30, 2016/noon
Watch for Unhealthy Smoke Levels
[Medford, OR] - Jackson County public health officials and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are offering information about steps residents can take to avoid illness from wildfire smoke inhalation. It is important for people to be observant of the air quality during the wildfire season, smoke levels can rise and fall depending on weather factors including wind direction.
People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children, are advised to stay indoors. Poor air quality conditions are a health threat and should be avoided by all residents in smoky communities. Local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly depending on weather factors, including wind direction.
Take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:
• Limit your exposure to wildfire smoke.
• Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors.
• Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
• Drink lots of water - staying hydrated can keep your airways moist which will help reduce symptoms of respiratory irritation such as scratchy throat, running nose and coughing.
• Check current air quality conditions. Visit http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/ for current air quality information.
• People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.
Keep in mind that monitoring locations are limited and pollution levels may be higher in some areas, especially those closer to a wildfire. It is important to conduct a visual assessment. People can conduct a visual assessment of nearby smoke to quickly get a sense of air quality levels using the 5-3-1 Visibility Index.
Determine the limit of your visual range by looking for distant targets or familiar landmarks such as mountains, mesas, hills, or buildings at known distances (miles). The visual range is that point at which these targets are no longer visible. As a general rule of thumb: if you can clearly see the outlines of individual trees on the horizon it is generally less than five miles away.
Ideally, the viewing of any distance targets should be made with the sun behind you. Looking into the sun or at an angle increases the ability of sunlight to reflect off of the smoke, and thus making the visibility estimate less reliable.
Once distance has been determined, follow this simple guide:
• If visibility is well over five miles, the air quality is generally good.
• Even if visibility is five miles away but generally hazy, 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 five-mile range.
• If under five 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 three 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. These people should minimize outdoor activity.
• If under one mile, the air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.
The best way to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke is avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors; avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions; people exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.
• For information on smoke and wildfires in Oregon, visit http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/
• For information on smoke and wildfires in California, visit http://californiasmokeinfo.blogspot.com/
• For more information about wildfires and health threats from wildfire smoke, go to http://public.health.oregon.gov/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForWildfire.aspx