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Air quality in SLO County diminished by fires CA fires

Posted at 6:25 AM, Nov 01, 2019

After an air quality advisory went out Monday for some Central Coast residents, San Luis Obispo County health officials say they're monitoring the impact of the state's raging wildfires on the air quality here.

A haunting image of a newlywed couple snapped in California's wine country, where the Kincade Fire is raging, has been circulating on social media.

A few hundred miles south of where that couple said "I do," residents on the Central Coast have gulped in that smokey air as high winds carried particulates south.

"Air does not respect county borders or city borders," San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam HIll, who serves on the county's Air Pollution Control District, said.

Air quality in some parts of San Luis Obispo County ranged Monday from moderate to unhealthy, while air in the Central Valley was deemed toxic.

Air quality has since rebounded, but two types of particulate matter -- PM 10 and PM 2.5 -- are measured daily by health officials.

"The smaller the particle, the further it can penetrate into your lungs," San Luis Obispo County Deputy Health Officer Rick Rosen said.

Rosen said these small bits of dust and smoke aren't visible to the naked eye but the health impacts are clear.

"If you're chronically exposed to large particles, you can see silicosis, coal miners lung, black lung that sort of thing," Rosen said.

Another long term concern is the potential for lung disease.

"We tend to take it for granted until someone gets sick," HIll said.

A new California law aims to protect employees exposed to poor air quality so they don't fall ill.

"The new law is to protect workers when air quality is not great," Rosen said.

Under that law, employers must provide employees with N95 respirator masks once PM 2.5 levels reach 151.

Employers must also make a reasonable effort to move the employee away from the worst area of exposure to poor air quality.

No city in San Luis Obispo County has reached that level of PM 2.5 so far this year.

"In a beautiful place like ours, we sometimes take clean air for granted," Hill said.

Rosen suggests turning on the AC unit when air quality is diminished because the filter in the AC unit can filter out particulates and circulate clean air. Fans do not have filters and can do more harm than good, according to Rosen.

You can check the current air quality rating by clicking here.