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Doctor weighs in on smoke hazards

August 4, 2014

Although not yet as bad as last year, residents and visitors to the Eastern Sierra are experiencing smoke coming through the passes primarily from the French Fire, according to the public health officer for Mono and Inyo counties.

"A reprieve yesterday brought the false hope that the worst was over; however, fires continue to burn in Amador, Madera, and Mariposa Counties, and will pose a risk from smoke to us for weeks to come," said Dr. Richard Johnson. "As I sit in my office, the top of Mammoth Mountain has disappeared from view in the last hour. Keep in mind that this is a very fluid and ever changing situation, dependent on the fire, control efforts, and the wind. Also, the fire season is far from over, so remember that the blessing of rain is often accompanied by lightning and additional fires."

"Some communities have access to continuous particulate matter (PM) monitoring," he said in the news release Monday. Aug. 4. "These monitors provide an instant reading of particulate matter concentrations averaged over one hour. It is these fine particles which are contained in wildfire smoke which make it so hazardous to our health."

For an up-to-date look at particulate levels in areas that are monitored, go to:
www.gbuapcd.org/data/index.htm
Areas without monitoring need other ways to estimate particle levels. The following index is useful in judging the levels near you on a continual basis.
· Good (can see 11 miles or more) - No cautionary statements.
· Moderate (can see 6-10 miles) - Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.
· Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (can see 3-5 miles) - People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
· Unhealthy (can see 1½-3 miles) - People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
· Very Unhealthy (can see 1-1½ mile) - People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.
· Hazardous (can see 1 mile or less) - Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors; people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low.
· In addition to using the visual guide, residents are encouraged to protect themselves and to seek medical treatment, if experiencing uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, or choking, or if breathing difficulty does not subside indoors.

Recommendations for Minimizing Smoke Exposure:
1. Stay indoors with windows and doors closed; run air-conditioner on “recirculate” setting. Minimize the use of swamp coolers. If it becomes too warm indoors, individuals may consider leaving the area to seek alternative shelter.
2. When driving make sure to drive with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner on “recirculate.”
3. Minimize or stop outdoor activities, especially exercise, during smoky conditions.
4. People who must spend time outdoors should drink plenty of fluids.
5. Additionally, pet owners should consider bringing their pets indoors out of the unhealthy air conditions, if possible. This is especially important for older pets.
6. Stay tuned to local radio and TV for emergency announcements about air quality.

To keep up-to-date on the status of California’s wildfires, and smoke impacts, go to:
http://www.californiasmokeinfo.blogspot.com

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