Multiple fires continue to burn today in Texas, clouding the air with smoke that contains elevated levels of particulate matter. Over the weekend there were multiple areas throughout the Southern U.S. affected by moderately unhealthy air quality as a result. More than a million acres have burned.
Late last week, in an article initially posted in the San Angelo Standard Times, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality compared the fires near San Angelo to a very big campfire (visit http://rawsep.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/2011-april-15-tx-san-angelo-air-quality-near-wildfires-like-being-near-a-campfire-tceq-says-rawsep-view-outdoor-athletic-activities-cancelled-emergency-room-expects-increase-in-traffic/ for more details).
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And although Texans could smell smoke and soot from the fires, one public health official pointed out that the hazards of the smoky air were smaller than spending a typical day in America’s most polluted urban areas.
“As bad as it is, it probably doesn’t even rank as close to pollution levels in big cities,” said a Green County Health Department official.
Still, officials warned residents in smoke-affected areas to stay inside if possible, especially those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory conditions.
However, staying indoors will not by itself keep your family safe from smoke from wildfires.
“The problem with staying indoors is that small particles from the smoke will eventually make their way inside your home, through cracks and gaps in the building, and become trapped,” said Frank Hammes, president of IQAir, in response to wildfires in California in 2009.
Hammes suggested that families create a “safe room” in their homes when outdoor air is contaminated by wildfire smoke.
IQAir is a Swiss-based air quality technology company that since 1963 empowers individuals, organizations and communities to breathe cleaner air through information, collaboration and technology solutions.