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Wildfire smoke causing air quality, health concerns

"Smoky air is like smoking a pack of cigarettes."
Posted: 5:48 PM, Aug 09, 2021
Updated: 2021-08-09 21:26:44-04
Poor Kern County Air Quality

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — If you’ve been outside recently, you’ve noticed the haze from all the wildfire smoke. And with that comes concerns about the air quality. Even though wildfires are burning in Northern California, the winds have brought smoke from there to the Central Valley including in Kern County and a big reason for that is the geography of being in a valley surrounded by mountains.

“We don't have anywhere for that smoke to go, so it just kind of stays trapped. And then we typically - in the Central Valley and San Joaquin Valley - stay in a high-pressure system and it acts like a lid that sits on top of all the pollution and traps anything that's already going on," explained Cassandra Melching of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Melching says this smoke is not particularly unusual this time of year due to the wildfire season.

“We're anticipating we're going to see impacts throughout the whole valley, you know as these days go on, because you know until that fire is completely extinguished you know it, this is going to be what we're in store for smoke.”

Real-time Outdoor Activity Risk (ROAR) Guidelines

Roar Schools 2017

The largest fire in the area is the Dixie Fire in the northern part of the state. But the directions of the winds decide where exactly the smoke can travel to.

Zeke Hausfather, director of Climate Energy says that unless you are breathing in the smoke for a long period of time, you probably won’t see any effects from it. But any exposure to these small particles can be dangerous.

“You know, every day you spend in smoky air is like you know smoking a pack of cigarettes and we know that's not great for your health.”

Melching says too much smoke inhalation could lead to your eyes feeling like they are burning and your chest feeling tight or other breathing issues.

“If you are smelling smoke you're being impacted and so you're going to want to reduce your time outdoors. But if you see it and you're not smelling it and you're not necessarily being impacted.”

Both experts say the best you can do to protect yourself from the smoke is to stay indoors, make sure you have air filters fitted, and you may need to change them more frequently than you usually would.

Hausfather recommends not working out outside and doing anything that can make you breathe faster and take in more air.

Tips to Stay Safe from Pool Air

“While people are outdoors they should try to avoid things like aerobic exercise, which leads to breathing more brain particles deeper into your lungs. You know if you want to go for a jog maybe wait a few days till it clears up.”

But if you are feeling sick or unwell, make sure you talk to your doctor. Hausfather says that this kind of air quality won’t be changing any time soon.

“It’s just that you know, this is becoming the new normal for California. We are going to have a smoky season, for the foreseeable future.”

Melching says to also monitor the air quality in your area you can use Valley Air’s real-time air advisory network or RAAN website or a physical monitor in your home.