​ Air Quality Now Very Unhealthy For All

​ Air Quality Now Very Unhealthy For All

Aug 21, 2015

Air Quality in the Spokane Area Now Very Unhealthy For All Groups

SPOKANE, Wash.-- Aug. 21, 2015 -- Air quality continues to be impacted by regional wildfires and air pollution is now in the "unhealthy" range or an Air Quality Index value of 225. This means many more people than average may have breathing problems or have worsened symptoms of existing lung or heart disease. Officials from Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) are urging residents to take precautions to protect their health.
"Everyone should limit time spent outdoors. Everyone should avoid exercising outdoors, including sports teams and choose non-strenuous indoor activities, Contact your health provider if you have specific questions about poor air quality and its potential impact to your health," said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD health officer. 
In addition to the general population, people with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or have had a stroke should especially stay indoors. Infants, children, pregnant women and adults over age 65 should also stay indoors.
Smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles. Breathing smoke can make anyone sick. Even someone who is healthy can get sick if there is enough smoke in the air. Air quality monitors are currently reporting levels that are "very unhealthy for all groups" or "purple" on the Air Quality Index (AQI).
Additionally, Spokane Clean Air needs residents to know that its website is currently experiencing problems. This is the primary site for air quality information in Spokane County. "Please bear with us while our website attempts to recover from so many visitors. It is slow but hopefully still able to give you current air quality information," said Julie Oliver, executive director of Spokane Clean Air.
Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing normally
  • Stinging eyes
  • A scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Irritated sinuses
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • An asthma attack
  • Tiredness
  • Fast heartbeat

It's important that individuals limit their exposure to smoke - especially if they are susceptible. Here are some steps people can take to protect themselves from smoke:

  • Pay attention to air quality reports. The Air Quality Index (AQI) uses color-coded categories to report when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.   
  • Use common sense. If it looks and smells smoky outside, it is probably not a good time to go for a jog, mow the lawn or allow children to play outdoors.
  • Individuals with asthma or other respiratory or lung conditions should follow their provider's directions on taking medicines. They should call their provider if symptoms worsen.
  • If a person has heart or lung disease, is an older adult, or has children, they should talk with their provider about whether and when they should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though a person may not see them.
  • Some room air cleaners can help reduce particulate levels indoors, as long as they are the right type and size for your home.
  • Paper "comfort" or "dust masks" are not the answer. The kinds of masks that people can commonly buy at the hardware store are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. But they generally will not protect lungs from the fine particles in smoke.
    • Respiratory masks labeled N95 or N100 provide some protection - they filter out some fine particles but not hazardous gases in smoke (such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and acrolein.) This type of mask can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies.

 Media contacts:

Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency

Lisa Woodard, (509) 477-4727, ext. 115; cell, 509-863-2463;
Spokane Regional Health District: 
Kimberly Papich, 509-324-1539; cell, 509-994-8968,
Washington State Department of Ecology (for air quality information outside of Spokane County): 
Jessica Payne, 360-407-6548;

More information:

Spokane Current Air Quality webpage 

Spokane Regional Health District wildfire FAQ

Washington State Department of Health Wildfire Smoke webpage