FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Tanya Phillips, Health Promotion Manager, 541-770-7708
Date of release: August 18, 2015 / 2:00 PM
Watch for Unhealthy Smoke Levels
[Medford, OR] – Jackson County public health officials urge people residence to take precautions as temperatures and air quality reach potentially unhealthy levels through Wednesday, and possibly into Thursday. The combination of high temperatures and wildfire smoke may increase the risk of illness, especially for older adults, young children, and people with asthma, respiratory, or heart conditions.
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.
During a wildfire smoke event, Jackson County health officials advise residents to take the following precautions:
• Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.
• 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.
Check DEQ’s Air Quality Index to see real-time air monitoring data from monitors placed around Oregon: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx
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. 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:
Page 2 of 2
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.
If you must be outdoors, wearing a special mask called a “particulate respirator” can also help protect your lungs from wildfire smoke. Dust masks that are not NIOSH-certified may not offer protection from small particulate matter, even if properly worn. NIOSH-certified N95 respirators are masks made of filtering material that fit over the nose and mouth. The filter material will filter out some of the small particles that may be found in smoke, but only if there is a good fit to the wearer’s face. It is also important to know that N95 particulate respirators and dust masks only filter particles, not toxic gases and vapors.
Most people will find it difficult to use the NIOSH-certified N95 respirators correctly for general use. For instance, it is impossible to get a good seal on individuals with facial hair. It is important to make sure the respirator fits properly and that air does not leak around the sides. If it does not fit properly, the respirator will provide little if any protection, and may offer the wearer a false sense of protection. To make sure that the mask is the correct N95 mask and is properly sealed, one is recommended to be fit tested by professionally trained personnel.
Filtering face-piece respirators and masks can make the work of breathing more difficult and can lead to increased breathing rates and heart rates. They can also contribute to heat stress.
Because of this, respirator use by those with heart and respiratory diseases should only be done under a doctor’s supervision. Even healthy adults may find that the increased effort required for breathing makes it uncomfortable to wear a respirator for more than short periods of time.
For employers with questions around employee health and wildfire smoke, contact Oregon OSHA.
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/,