DEQ issues statewide air quality advisory

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) officials report that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is issuing a statewide air quality advisory through noon Monday, September 14. The air quality in the Klamath Basin is anticipated to deteriorate over the weekend.

Widespread fires in Oregon, California and Washington will continue to affect air quality throughout the Pacific Northwest. At 9:30 this morning the DEQ monitoring website was down, but airnow.gov reported Klamath Falls had an air quality index of 111, or unhealthy for sensitive groups. The index routinely fluctuates throughout the day.

“Staying indoors is the best way to prevent smoke exposure,” said KCPH Director Jennifer Little. “Creating a clean air space in one room, with a filtering device is ideal.”

Little also said that residents should ensure they have five-day supply of medication to prevent a need to go out to the pharmacy. Those with respiratory and cardiac disease are especially vulnerable during periods of heavy smoke intrusion.

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

Currently, masks and respirators known to protect against wildfire smoke particles, the N95, are in short supply and are being reserved as personal protective equipment for health professionals. The best way to reduce smoke exposure is to stay indoors.

Know if you are at risk:

  • If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems from smoke.
  • Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.
  • Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.

Recommendations for people with chronic diseases include:

  • Have an adequate supply of medication (more than five days).
  • If you have asthma, make sure you have a written asthma management plan.
  • If you have heart disease, check with your health care providers about precautions to take during smoke events.
  • If you plan to use a portable air cleaner, select a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or an electro-static precipitator (ESP). Buy one that matches the room size specified by the manufacturer.
  • Call your health care provider if your condition gets worse when you are exposed to smoke.

During periods of impact from wildfire smoke, community members will notice discussion of the air quality index number. This number is most helpful when residents know its meaning. KCPH wants to help the community “know the numbers”. High temperatures can make the smoky conditions more uncomfortable. Knowing the range of air quality numbers can help people make good choices about outdoor activities.

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