Summer haze can impact air quality, raise health risks

July 12, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 10 a.m. July 12, 2012

Summer in Western Washington means a respite from the rain, but the season also brings wildfires and increased ozone levels. The result is diminished air quality and increased health risks for people battling heart and lung diseases.

Different factors contribute to summer air pollution. Several consecutive days of sunny, hot weather increase ozone. Wildfires produce smoky air containing fine particles and toxic chemicals. Vehicle exhaust also contributes to air quality issues.

People can lower exposure to air pollution by checking air quality conditions before participating in outdoor activities. State health officials recommended for people — especially seniors and others at increased risk — to limit outdoor activity and choose less strenuous things to do, such as going for a walk instead of a run, if air pollution is high.

Pollution reaches the highest levels at midday or in the afternoon, so exercising earlier or later may be wise. Indoor exercise is another option.

“It’s important for people who have conditions like asthma, bronchitis and heart disease to pay attention to air quality reports,” Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer, said in a statement. “Air pollution makes it hard for everybody to breathe. And poor air quality affects people with heart and lung diseases earlier than others. If you live in an area that has forest fires, make sure to protect yourself from smoky conditions.”

Resources exist to inform Washingtonians about air quality.

The state Department of Ecology offers clickable state maps featuring information about current air quality. Airwatch NW has information about air quality and burn bans, plus tips on clean home heating. Smartphone users can download the State of the Air app from the American Lung Association. The app for iPhone and Android offerscurrent air quality information.

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