Wildfires and Air Quality

As wildfires rage on in the Columbia River Gorge, heavy wildfire smoke and ash in the air as well as other pollutants can irritate eyes and respiratory systems and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) notes that wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles which can irritate eyes and respiratory systems and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. The quantity and duration of smoke exposure, as well as a person’s age and degree of susceptibility, play a role in determining whether or not someone will experience smoke-related health problems. Particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory problems. When smoke levels are high, anyone exposed may experience symptoms.

The Southwest (Washington) Clean Air Agency issued an air pollution advisory on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.  Officials advise area residents to limit outdoor activities, keep children indoors and to follow medical advice if you have a heart or lung condition.

Even healthy people can be affected by inhaling wildfire smoke.  People most likely to have health problems from breathing smoke include:

  • People with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including bronchitis and emphysema.
  • People with respiratory infections, such as cold or flu.
  • People with existing heart or circulatory problems, such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and angina.
  • People with a prior history of heart attack or stroke.
  • Infants and children because their lungs and airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.
  • Older adults over age 65. Adults age 65 and older may have unrecognized heart or lung disease.
  • Smokers already have lower lung function or lung disease, and breathing smoke can make their conditions worse.

Source:  Washington Department of Health

To keep track of air quality, click here for the latest Southwest (Washington) Clean Air Agency air quality index.

According to The Columbian, the Eagle Creek Fire spread into Skamania County this morning.  So far, the fire in Washington has burned about 25 acres on the south side of Archer Mountain, west of Skamania and nearly directly across the Columbia River from Multnomah Falls.  Evacuations have been made for the following areas: Archer Mountain Road, Franz Road, Smith Cripe Road, Kellet Road and Victoria Lane. Residents needing a place to evacuate to may go to the Rock Creek Hegewald Center at 710 Rock Creek Drive in Stevenson, WA.

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