The thick haze hovering over Turlock has prompted a health warning from air quality officials and is causing some residents to reconsider their plans for the Fourth of July, as fireworks are expected to exacerbate the smoky conditions.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a health warning for the entire region Monday because of the smoke wafting in from the County Fire burning in Napa, Lake and Yolo counties.
The health caution will remain in place until the fire is extinguished and smoke impacts are expected throughout the Valley through Tuesday at the earliest.
The County Fire was only 3 percent contained as of 3 p.m. Monday and has already consumed 44,500 acres, according to Cal Fire. The fire is burning in tall grass, brush, and dense oak and is running up steep terrain. There’s more than 1,200 fire personnel on scene, as well as 119 engines and 12 helicopters in use.
Smoke from fires can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Where conditions warrant, people with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate exposure. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to the health effects from these pollutants. Anyone being exposed to poor air quality or wildfire smoke should move inside to an air-conditioned environment.
Fine particulate matter can invade the bloodstream, get deep into the lungs and has been linked to heart attacks and stroke. The District’s Real-time Air Advisory Network detects the fine particulates in the air. Starting at noon Monday the particulate matter (PM2.5) in Turlock was at a 12, which put it in the good level. By 1 p.m. it had risen to 39 and continued to move upward until it peaked at 132 by 3 p.m., putting it in the very unhealthy range. By 4 p.m. it had fallen to 115 but was still in the very unhealthy range. When the air quality is at this level the Air District advises everyone to avoid outdoor activity if possible.
If Valley residents feel the need to enjoy fireworks, we urge them to exhibit their patriotism by attending a professional Independence Day event in their area instead of using personal fireworks. Each year, people suffer serious health consequences from direct exposure in the neighborhoods where they live and breathe… from firework activities that are entirely preventable.Samir Sheikh, the District’s Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer
The RAAN monitors are designed to detect the fine particulates, which are microscopic in size and not visible to the human eye) that exist in smoke. Ash particles are much larger in size and will not be detected by the monitors. Therefore, an area may be experiencing ash impacts from potential fires while the PM monitor reflects a moderate reading. The Air District said if people can see ash or smell smoke then they should try to remain indoors.
The fires come just as Air District officials were expecting a drop in air quality brought about by the use of fireworks. Fireworks can increase levels of dangerous particulate matter (PM), including soot, ash and metals, which cause serious health impacts. Individuals most at risk are small children, the elderly and people with existing respiratory conditions.
Each year on the Fourth of July, air monitors across the Valley reflect spikes in PM concentrations, often four to five times higher than the health-based federal standards, and typically occur between the hours of 9 and 10 pm. These spikes are due in part to personal fireworks used throughout Valley neighborhoods and the high levels of PM threaten the Valley’s progress in meeting air-quality standards that protect public health.
“If Valley residents feel the need to enjoy fireworks, we urge them to exhibit their patriotism by attending a professional Independence Day event in their area instead of using personal fireworks,” said Samir Sheikh, the District’s Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer. “Each year, people suffer serious health consequences from direct exposure in the neighborhoods where they live and breathe… from firework activities that are entirely preventable.”