Wildfire prompts unhealthful air warning in Los Angeles Region

Wildfire prompts unhealthful air warning in Los Angeles Region

13 October 2008

published by latimesblogs.latimes.com

USA — Today’s wildfire isn’t just burning homes, it is also spreading unhealthful pollution far and wide, potentially harming people who live miles away from the blaze.

A government agency in charge of cleaning up Southern California’s air, South Coast Air Quality Management District, issued awarning today that the Marek fire in the Angeles National Forest is spreading unhealthful concentrations of fine particulate dust throughout the San Fernando Valley and portions of the San Gabriel Mountains.

The agency warned that with strong Santa Ana winds, the dust could reach as far as the San Bernardino Valley, southwest Riverside County, Orange County, the South Bay-Long Beach area and the Santa Monica-Malibu area.

The AQMD said that in areas impacted by smoke or windblown dust, “Everyone should avoid any vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion; people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors.”

The agency urged affected residents to keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot inside. If it is, seek alternate shelter. Run your air conditioner, but keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to avoid allowing smoke to seep indoors.

For more tips on avoiding the health impacts of smoke, see AQMD’swebsite.

Beyond the immediate effect of dust and smoke, a recentstudy of California wildfires by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found that fires also boost ozone pollution beyond health standards, aggravating asthma, bronchities and emphysema. Ground-level ozone damages crops and other plants too.

“Ozone can hit unhealthy levels even in places where people don’t see smoke,” said lead author Gabriele Pfister.

In 2007, the scientists found, California wildfires spread unhealthy ozone levels far across rural California and into Nevada.

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