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Air Quality and Return to Work (Eng)

CONTACT: Lake County Health Services Department, Public Health Division at
(707) 263-1090.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Message from Gary Pace, M.D., Interim Public Health Officer:

Messaging on Air Quality and Return to Work:
Now that residents of Lake County are starting to return back to work after the fires, many people are wondering about how safe their office and work environment is.

From the point of view of Public Health, the main concern is going to be air quality.  Current particulate levels in Lake County are in the range from “Unhealthy” to “Hazardous” throughout the County. These Unhealthy to Hazardous levels of smoke are expected to continue through Wednesday.

If you live in the area, most office buildings are no worse for your health than your home environment. Some offices have “air scrubbers,” so their air will actually be better than in the home. If there is ash in the environment, clean it up without agitating it.

For farmworkers picking pears or other outdoor work, the concerns are the same. People in the high risk groups should avoid heavy exercise with the current worrisome air quality. For farmworkers that choose to work even with the smoke, if they start having symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest pain, they should stop work and get medical help if symptoms persist.

There are no indications that any permanent problems such as cancer will develop due to short term exposure to smoke such as this. Since the air problems are almost exclusively from wood smoke, there are no real industrial contaminants that might lead to other long-term problems.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Recommendations are that people over 65, under 12, and those with pre-existing lung disease (such as asthma, bronchitis, COPD, and other respiratory conditions) or heart problems are at particular risk from breathing this air and should take extra precautions.
  • High risk people should carefully adhere to their medical treatment plans and maintain at least a five-day supply of prescribed medications.
  • High risk groups should limit outdoor activity and unnecessary physical exertion while smoke is present. If they cannot leave the smoky area, good ways to protect the lungs from wildfire smoke include staying indoors and reducing physical activity.
  • Wearing an air purifying respirator can also help protect the lungs from wildfire smoke. N-95 masks may be effective in reducing some of the harmful particulate matter, but they also increase the work of breathing and are not recommended as a general protective measure.
  • Dust masks are not protective against the ultra-fine particulate, which is the pollutant most detrimental to health caused by wildfire smoke.
  • If you have air conditioning, turn it to interior recirculation or turn off and use fans. This prevents the intake of the outside, smoky air.