Air quality in Butte County has deteriorated to the “very dangerous” level, according to the Butte County Air Quality Management District.
That is expected to be the case both Saturday and Sunday.
Visible smoke from the Camp Fire has filled the area since Thursday, but the danger is from microscopic bits of soot and ash that you can’t see. That “small particulate” pollution can be inhaled deep into the lungs and become lodged, causing health problems.
Those bits can float in the air for hours and build up. The federal government says any concentration over 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air begins to be unhealthy. Saturday the Chico air monitor was averaging 210, according to a California Air Quality Board website.
The readings topped out at 995 from 5-9 p.m. Friday evening. It might have been worse; that’s just as high as the scale goes.
Pollution at these levels can cause coughing, watery and itchy eyes, and difficulty in breathing. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, smokers, and those with respiratory conditions are at greatest risk.
The Butte County Air Quality Management District says anyone experiencing questionable or severe symptoms should seek professional medical advice and treatment. A similar warning has been issued for Glenn County.
To limit the impacts:
• Limit outdoor exertion, especially children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
• Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible in buildings and vehicles.
• Avoid the use of non-HEPA paper face masks or surgical masks, which are not capable of filtering extra fine particulates. Look for ratings of N95 or P100. They were sold out Saturday morning at Home Depot and Lowe’s in south Chico, but Lowe’s indicated it was expecting some about noon. Collier Hardware downtown could be another option.
• Check or replace air conditioner filters. Look for a rating of at least MERV-8. Use the air conditioner on the recirculate setting.
• Avoid breathing in accumulated or airborne ash. Also avoid skin contact with accumulated ash, especially children and pets.