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Air Quality Watch Reissued for Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District on Monday reissued an Air Quality Watch for Santa Barbara County.

Although air quality has improved, some areas still may be affected by smoke and ash, and fires burning in Southern California still have the potential to affect the county’s air quality. The air district also cautions homeowners and contractors to be careful when cleaning up burned building materials.

The ash that has been deposited can be resuspended by vehicle traffic and wind for some time, and could produce localized areas of unhealthy particle concentrations. This notice is considered only an Air Quality Watch at this time; changing winds and weather conditions will determine which areas of the county are affected, and the levels of smoke/ash in the air.

When houses burn, asbestos fibers from building materials may become airborne, creating a potentially hazardous situation. Cleanup can make conditions worse if not done properly. Handling materials that contain asbestos can be hazardous to health. It is also important when cleaning up ash particles to avoid doing anything to stir particles into the air, and especially to avoid using leaf blowers.

If smoke or ash are in the air, be cautious and use common sense. Everyone, especially people with heart or lung disease (including asthma), older adults, and children, should limit time spent outdoors, and avoid outdoor exercise when smoke and ash are in the air. If you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to exposure to smoke or ash particles, including repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your health care provider.

For recorded advisory updates, call 805.961.8802. An Air Quality Watch is issued when there is potential for poor air quality in some areas of the county.

Cleanup After a Fire

After a fire, ash that is deposited on the ground may be stirred up by vehicles, winds and cleanup activities, resulting in localized areas of higher particle levels in the air, which can produce health problems.

In addition, when houses burn, asbestos fibers from building materials may become airborne. Many buildings constructed before 1981 have asbestos-containing materials. Buildings constructed after 1981 will have less of these materials, however, burning of even relatively smaller amounts of these materials may release asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and a respiratory hazard.

While homeowners can conduct their own cleanups, typically cleanup of asbestos-containing materials is done by trained professionals with proper safety equipment, using safe handling practices. Click here for more information on asbestos cleanup issues.

When cleaning up ash, soot and dust, try to:

» Use damp cloths, spray areas lightly with water and direct ash-filled water to ground areas, and away from the runoff system. Try to use the minimum amount of water necessary to avoid overtaxing runoff systems.

» Use vacuums with HEPA filters, sweep gently with a broom.

» Take vehicles to the car wash.

» Wash off toys that have been outside in the ash; clean ash off pets.

» Avoid any skin contact with the ash (wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts).

Try not to:

» Do any ash cleanup if you have heart or lung problems.

» Do anything that stirs the particles back up into the air.

Don’t:

» Allow kids to play in the ash.

» Use leaf blowers.

Click here for more information.

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