June 2006

AZBW News Breaks June 20, 2006

Brins Fire Air Quality Advisory

Due to smoke and ash issues resulting from the Brins Mesa fire currently burning in the Sedona area, the Coconino County Health Department has issued air quality advisories as follows:

Sedona: Air is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

Munds Park, Kachina Village and all areas between these locations: Very Unhealthy. People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all outdoor physical activity. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

Wildfire smoke is primarily made up of small particles, gases, and water vapor, with trace amounts of hazardous air pollutants. Most harmful are the particles (or particulate matter) smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (70 micrometers is the diameter of a human hair). If these particles are inhaled deeply into the lungs, they can damage lung tissue and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Symptoms from short-term smoke exposure range from scratchy throat, cough, irritated sinuses, headaches, runny nose, and stinging eyes to more serious reactions among persons with asthma, emphysema, congestive heart disease, and other existing medical conditions. Older adults and children are also high-risk groups. When smoke levels are dangerously high, the appropriate protective measures should be followed.

Ways to Protect Your Family's Health from Wildfire Smoke

Pay attention to local air quality reports. Stay alert to any news coverage or health warnings related to smoke. Local Health and Emergency Authorities will issue instructions based on the Environmental Protection Agencyís (EPA) Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI, based on data from local air quality monitors, tells you about the daily air quality in your area and recommends precautions you can take to protect your health. As smoke gets worse, the concentration of particles in the air changes - and so do the steps you should take to protect yourself.

Use visibility guides. Because wildland fire smoke is highly visible, it is possible to visually estimate smoke levels and estimate potential health impacts. Generally, the worse the visibility is, the worse the smoke is.

Use the following guide for determining air quality:

  • Face away from the sun.
  • Determine the limit of your visibility range by looking for targets at known distances (miles). Visibility range is the point at which even high contrast objects totally disappear.

Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it is probably not a good time for outdoor activities. And it's probably not a good time for your children to play outdoors.

If you feel ill as a result of wildfire smoke, regardless of the AQI level, take necessary precautions: stay indoors, use a HEPA filter, and limit your activities. Contact your health care provider for additional instructions.

If you are advised to stay indoors, keep your windows and doors closed. Make sure air conditioning units have a clean filter in the air intakes. Devices with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters can reduce the indoor pollution.

Do not add to indoor air pollution. Donít use anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves, or even candles. Donít vacuum; that stirs up particles already inside your home. Donít smoke; that puts even more pollution in your lungs, and in the lungs of people around you.

Dust masks arenít enough! Common masks will not protect your lungs from small particles in smoke. HEPA masks may filter out the small particles but are not suitable for people with lung diseases. Those with lung diseases should follow your respiratory management plan. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.

Visit the Arizona Department of Health Services website at http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oeh/wildfire.htm for additional information regarding the dangers of wildfire smoke and wildfire preparedness. For other personal preparedness information, log on to www.coconino.az.gov/health.aspx.