How Can I Stay Safe with Unhealthy Air Conditions?

The entire bay area has been impacted by the smoke and unhealthy air coming from the fire zone, with some of the most significant effects noticed in the West County area.  County Supervisor John Gioia, who represents most of that region, compiled the following information for residents, drawing from resources including the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the County's Health Services Department:

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a smoke advisory and a health advisory due to the smoke from the North Bay fires which has caused unprecedented levels of air pollution in the Bay Area.   Much of our region is expected to exceed national health standards for particulate matter pollution.

To see real time air quality readings in your area, click here.   As of Tuesday afternoon, the unhealthiest air is in the North Bay counties and along the northern Contra Costa shoreline from Richmond to Martinez, since it's directly downwind from the fires.

Air quality in your area may change depending on current wind conditions, so check the link throughout the day to get the most recent air quality reading in your area.

The fine particulate pollution in the smoke is unhealthy and can irritate our eyes and airways, cause coughing or a scratchy throat and irritated sinuses.  These fine particles can get deep into our lungs and even into our bloodstream.

This unhealthy air especially impacts children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory issues and heart disease. Please visit Contra Costa County Health department for Health Alerts and Tips.

Here are some tips to protect yourself and others:

•Limit outdoor activities to avoid unnecessary exposure if you smell smoke.  Given the current poor air quality in West Contra Costa County, all residents are urged to avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
•Set home and work air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate air in order to prevent outside air from being drawn inside.  If you can't set the system on recirculate, then shut it down and keep windows and doors closed, if possible.
•Reduce exposure to smoky air by staying indoors with windows and doors closed, if possible.
•Check local media for changes in smoke or weather conditions.
•Don't add to the air pollution -- avoid wood burning, gasoline lawn mowing, and barbecuing; and minimize your driving, if possible.

A few tips about masks:
•The surgical and dust masks available at hardware stores are not effective to protect against the particulate matter from the smoke.  
•If you need to be outside frequently, you can buy an N-95 mask, which can provide some level of protection if properly worn.   They must fit tight on your face (tightly sealed around your nose and mouth).   They are not suitable for children.  Once you take them off, the inside of the mask gets contaminated and you need to use a new one.
•If you have a respiratory issue, don't automatically use an N-95 mask since they can restrict the flow of air and make it hard for you to breathe.  Check with your health provider first.