Smoke Impact on Air Quality and Your Health in SLO County
Author: Public Health Department
11/13/2018 1:00:23 PM
Air quality across SLO County is currently good and is expected to stay in this range through the week.
Air quality in SLO County has been affected by smoke from wildfires but has recently improved: air quality is now good across the county.
The Public Health Department and the Air Pollution Control District are working in partnership to assess air quality, identify any possible health effects, and share information about how you can protect your health.
What are the conditions in SLO County?
Current air quality in SLO County has recently improved from moderate to good, meaning air quality does not typically pose a health risk. Changing winds make it difficult to predict which areas of the county may be most affected if conditions change. For current, detailed updates on air quality, and a forecast for the days ahead, visit the APCD Air Quality Index page.
What should I do to protect myself?
The current air quality does not typically pose a health risk and you do not need to take any special precautions.
If conditions change and air quality becomes unhealthy, we recommend:
- Avoid outdoor activity as much as possible
- Remain indoors as much as possible
- Set any air conditioning/ventilation systems to recirculate
If you experience shortness of breath, wheezing, exhaustion, light-headedness or chest pain: immediately stop any outdoor activity and contact your doctor.
What if someone in my family is very sensitive to air quality?
Some groups of people such as very young children, older adults, and people with serious underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease may be especially sensitive to variations in air quality and may be affected if conditions change. People who are very sensitive to air quality will benefit from staying indoors if air quality becomes worse. Anyone who experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, exhaustion, light-headedness or chest pain should immediately stop any outdoor activity and contact their doctor.
Is the Public Health Department distributing N95 masks to the public?
The Public Health Department is not currently distributing N95 masks. Officials are closely monitoring the situation and are prepared to distribute N95 masks if needed.
What if I want to wear a mask? Are they available in SLO County? Can I reuse a mask?
Many stores in SLO County sell N95 masks. Please check with your local retailer if you wish to obtain N95 masks. Note that N95 masks provide the most protection when they are properly fitted. These masks are designed for adults, but may fit a child if the child's face is comparable in size to a petite adult. Masks may be reused if they are dry and in good condition.
How can I safely clean up ash?
If you see a lot of falling ash, stay indoors as much as possible and set your air conditioning/ventilation to recirculate. If you need to clean up ash after it has stopped falling, remember to avoid skin contact with ash as much as possible (wear gloves and long sleeves) and avoid using leaf blowers or shop vacuums because they will stir dust into the air. For lightly dusted areas, use a damp cloth, a wet mop, or a vacuum with a HEPA filter. For more detail, see wildfires and your health.
Can smoke or ash affect my pets?
Unhealthy air for humans is also unhealthy for pets. Outdoor domestic animals should be brought indoors, or inside a garage. Exposure to smoke and ash can cause eye irritation, coughing, and difficulty breathing for your pet. Call your veterinarian if your pet is having difficulty breathing or appears more tired than usual.
What if conditions change?
Air quality and the related health risk can change rapidly. The Air Pollution Control District is monitoring air quality hourly across SLO County, and the Public Health Department is closely following these results. We will alert the public if conditions change and require different precautions.
How often is air quality tested?
The Air Pollution Control District collects air quality data 24 hours per day, 7 days per week at nine permanent air monitoring stations located throughout the county and at temporary air monitoring sites set up in areas that may be most impacted.
Where can I get updates? How can I check the air quality in my area?
For updates on current and forecasted air quality, visit www.slocleanair.org. To receive air quality alerts by text message, visit www.slocleanair.org/air-quality-alerts.php and sign up for Air Aware Alerts. You can also follow @slocleanair on Twitter.
For updates from the Public Health Department, visit www.slopublichealth.org, follow @SLOPublicHealth on Twitter, or follow @slopublichealth.org on Facebook.