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Smoke from CA wildfires can result in long-lasting health impacts for Central Coast residents

Posted at 9:44 PM, Oct 18, 2020

A record-breaking wildfire season is leaving lasting health effects, even when the fire is out.

Smoke has impacted the air quality in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, in a time when respiratory concerns are already heightened.

Physicians at the Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center say they have not seen many people come in for air quality concerns, which may be due to a greater concern over COVID-19.

"It could be people are caring for themselves at home, they’re being extra cautious because of our current pandemic situation, trying to avoid coming in," said Stephen Szabo, Director of Cardio-Pulmonary and Respiratory Services of Tenet Health.

Those with breathing concerns can address care at home, with tools like a peak meter which can register a person's breathing force and determine how open or closed their bronchial passage is.

For Central Coast families like the Patterson's, bad air quality impacts their ability to breathe due to asthma conditions that Cheryl and her daughter have.

“Well with the fires going on, we kind of wheeze a lot, we cough a lot," San Luis Obispo resident Cheryl Patterson said.

Over the past few months, air specialists with the SLO County Air Pollution Control District say they have seen some of the worst air pollution in the region on record.

“We’ve been really fortunate to not have any very large fires here in our area, however fires burning even outside of our county can have an impact here in San Luis Obispo," said Meghan Field, air quality specialist with the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District.

Smoke-free skies have returned after the Central Coast dealt with poor air quality earlier this month and last.

To find out the air conditions in your area, Field says monitoring stations are the best option.

To check the air quality in your region, visit