Summer heat increases smog risk, impacts air quality
August 21, 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.
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency forecasters issued a smog advisory in King and Pierce counties Aug. 16, as temperatures climbed to 90 degrees and beyond.
Smog builds as hot temperatures and sunlight “cook” everyday emissions from motor vehicles, industry, paints, solvents and gasoline fumes. The pollutants then react with the heat and sun, and form ground-level ozone, the main component in smog.
On the Web
Residents can check air quality in Issaquah and throughout the region through the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency at www.pscleanair.org/airq/aqiozone.aspx. The state Department of Ecology offers clickable state maps featuring current air quality information at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.htm.
Smoggy conditions mostly impacted communities in the Cascade foothills, including Issaquah. Pollution generated by vehicle traffic and activities in the urban areas of Everett, Seattle and Tacoma accumulated as particles moved to outlying suburban and rural areas.
Numerous 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, and vehicle exhaust contributes to air quality issues.
Such air pollution is especially harmful to children, people with heart and lung problems, and adults older than 65.
Exposure to smog can trigger asthma attacks, make breathing difficult, exacerbate lung and heart problems, and weaken the immune system.
State health officials recommended people at increased risk 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.
People can lower exposure to air pollution by checking air quality conditions before participating in outdoor activities.
Pollution reaches the highest levels at midday or in the afternoon, so exercising outdoors earlier or later may be wise.