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This past week most Californians have probably been aware of the wildfires ravaging various parts of the state. Although the Bay Area didn’t suffer the property damage and loss caused by these particular fires, residents experienced (and may still be experiencing to some degree) a byproduct of the fires: hazardous air quality. Because of weather pressure, the smoke pollution that reached the Bay Area simply hovered over the area. It remained trapped in the atmosphere causing dangerous levels of air pollution. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the hovering smoke ranked San Francisco’s air quality as the worst in the world.
Air pollution is caused by chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. Some negative health effects for humans include heart disease, emphysema, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. The National Geographic Society says air pollution can also cause long-term damage to nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs, and some scientists suspect air pollutants cause birth defects. We need to be aware of the potential for lung damage and minimize our exposure to these harmful pollutants. When the air quality declines, the health of older adults, people with heart or lung conditions, and children is especially at risk. These people groups should remain indoors. Air quality like the atmosphere produced by the wildfires is hazardous to all people, though. Wildfires leave fine particles in the atmosphere that can settle in the lungs and cause irritation to respiratory systems. It is vital to remain indoors during these condition.
SF72 is a resource that lists current air quality in the Bay Area and provides a map of respite locations open to public if you don’t have access to an environment with clean air. If you do need to go outside, the California Department of Public Health suggests a particle respiratory mask. This is different than a typical disposable mask, which does not provide protection from hazardous air. The particle respiratory mask should have the word ” NIOSH” and either N95 or P100 printed on it. This mask will not completely protect from smoke, but blocks at least 95 percent of pollutant particles. These masks can be purchased at hardware stores or online. The American Lung Association recommends checking the air quality daily prior to leaving the house, and avoiding outdoors exertion when pollution levels are high. For other information on local air quality, and ideas to reduce your own impact on air pollution, visit Spare the Air.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.