American Lung Association warns of health harms from breathing smoky air

  • Wednesday, September 6, 2017 1:30pm
  • News

More than 25 wildfires continue to burn throughout the Pacific Northwest blanketing skies with smoke.

The smoke from these fires along with stagnant weather conditions and near-record high temperatures are creating air quality in the unhealthy levels, according to an American Lung Association media release.

Dangerous smoke from these wildfires poses lethal health hazards to people living and working in surrounding areas. Residents with respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and those with chronic heart disease should take extra precautions during this time and call their physician immediately if problems develop.

The smoke from wildfires is a mixture of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter (known as PM), hydrocarbons, other organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides and trace minerals. Exposure to this smoke can cause serious health problems ranging from pneumonia and asthma attacks to cardiovascular episodes.

Most vulnerable to smoke exposure are babies, small children, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with existing respiratory problems or heart disease.

“Even those without lung disease are at risk during this time,” said Heather Kimmel, executive director of the American Lung Association in Idaho. “With the rising smoke levels, there is an increased risk of dangerous health effects ranging from respiratory tract irritation to more serious illness, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, worsening of asthma, and premature death. This is especially concerning for older adults and outdoor workers. Special care should be given to children as they are most susceptible to smoke because their lungs are still developing.”

The American Lung Association offers the following tips:

• Stay inside as much as possible, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut – with clean air circulating through air conditions and/or air cleaners. Residents should use the re-circulation setting on their home air conditions to avoid outdoor air contamination. Using whole house fans is not recommended because they can allow unfiltered outside air into the home.

• When driving through smoky areas, car windows and vents should be closed. Air conditioning should be set to recirculate to avoid exposure to outside air.

• Avoid exercising outdoors, particularly if you smell smoke of experience eye or throat irritation.

• If you have lung disease, check in with your physician regarding any changes in medication that may be needed to cope with the smoky conditions. If you experience any symptoms, contact your physician immediately.

• Check the quality of your air. Visit airnow.gov or download the AirNow app on your smartphone. Local radio, TV weather reports and newspapers also provide updates.

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