Experts on smoke and poor air quality: ‘It affects everybody’

KSEE24 News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Smoky skies draped over the Central Valley Wednesday morning as the KNP Complex Fire and the Windy Fire continue to burn in Tulare County.

Through the Valley Air app, throughout much of the day, the real-time air advisory network stayed at Level 4, which means everyone should avoid prolonged or vigorous outdoor activities and sensitive individuals should exercise indoors.

At the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, air quality specialists monitored closely throughout the day.

“You can see here with these colors, these are the AQI colors, that’s unhealthy for sensitive groups, very unhealthy, hazardous here close to the fires,” said Cole Hutton, an air quality specialist.

UCSF Fresno medical director for chronic lung disease Dr. Anil Ghimire said those with medical conditions like asthma, lung disease, and heart disease are especially vulnerable.

“In general it affects everybody, the smoke. But especially certain groups of people, someone with chronic lung disease, asthma, COPD,” Ghimire said. “Reaching (Level) 4 and 5, even a healthy young person, should not exert outside but they can still go out and a little bit of activities but for people who have chronic problems, they should absolutely avoid this kind of situation.”

For some people, like field workers, avoiding being outdoors isn’t an option.

“For the protection of health, N95 mask is the way to go. But it’s very difficult to work in that hot, humid condition with that N95 for more than few minutes,” Ghimire said.

Manuel Cunha, Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League keeps boxes of N95 masks and says the growers or contractors will pick them up for workers in the fields or he will drop them off.

“Today I’ll go out this afternoon on the east side, I’ll hit about nine or 10 different agricultural farms, different growers and I’ll be carrying supplies with me just in case they’re running short and we’ll do a check up,” Cunha, Jr. said.

Ghimire said with the prolonged wildfire seasons, they will likely study more the long-term effects these conditions could have on people’s bodies.

“We need to start thinking about that now, especially young healthy people. Right now you might not feel the effect, but the exposure might have started some process in your body that will ultimately manifest when you’re a little bit older,” Ghimire said.

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