Pixel Tracker

Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 12:58 am | Overcast 59º


Tips for Being Air Quality Aware and Fire Prepared

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department encourage residents to be proactive and plan for poor air quality conditions when wildfires occur and smoke is present.

The smoke and ash from wildfires are made up of very small particles known as particulate matter, or PM, which can cause health issues, especially for children, seniors, pregnant women, and people with heart or lung conditions.

When it’s smoky outside, it is important for everyone to avoid outdoor activities — making indoor air quality that much more important. Below are some tips to create a clean-air environment in your home:

» If advised to stay indoors, keep your windows and doors closed. If temperatures are high and you do not have a way to keep your home cool with the windows and doors closed, consider temporarily relocating until conditions improve.

» Run your home or car air conditioner on recycle or recirculate. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.

» Create a “clean air room” in your home where you can set up a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cleaner; a room where you spend a lot of time, such as a bedroom, is one suggestion. A HEPA air purifier can reduce the amount of harmful particles in your indoor air by about 90 percent, according to the California Air Resources Board. HEPA purifiers are available in various makes and models for various room sizes. Filters on HEPA air purifiers should be checked frequently and replaced as often as is indicated in the unit’s owners’ manual. It may be necessary to replace the filters more often if the cleaner is used during a wildfire. Click here for the California Air Resources Board's list of air purifiers confirmed as safe and legal for sale in the state. A less expensive option involves attaching a filter to a box fan.

If you are unable to keep your indoor air clean during a wildfire, consider relocating to an area where the air is cleaner, even if only for a few hours. Symptoms of smoke exposure include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest tightness or pain, nausea, and unusual fatigue or lightheadedness. Talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms.

Understanding air quality data

During wildfires, it is important to pay attention to local air quality conditions and stay alert to smoke-related news coverage or health warnings. Click here to sign up to receive air quality advisories from the Air Pollution Control District.

The district provides hourly updates on regional air quality conditions throughout Santa Barbara County and measures for particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and ozone, or smog. During wildfires, smoke and ash generally lead to elevated levels of PM2.5, which are harmful, invisible particles, and elevated levels of PM10, which are larger particles that can get broken down into smaller particles over time. Find more information on smoke and health, including a graphic illustrating the size of PM2.5 and PM10, by clicking here.

You can check the conditions by looking at the Air Quality Index chart. The AQI translates pollutant measurements into a more visual look at air quality conditions. Here are some tips for using the chart:

» Find the local AQI for current conditions and forecasts by clicking here.

» The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution, and the greater the health concern. The colors also help show the different levels of health concern.

» An AQI value of 100 represents the federal health standard for that pollutant; any value over 100 is unhealthy for sensitive groups, and unhealthy for everyone the higher the number climbs. 

The AQI is a great visual tool for checking air quality conditions. Click here to see the actual measured level of a pollutant. Here are some tips for interpreting that data: 

» For PM10, measurements above 150 micrograms per cubic meter are unhealthy for sensitive groups (which corresponds to the orange AQI level).

» For PM2.5, measurements above 35 micrograms per cubic meter are unhealthy for sensitive groups.

» For ozone, measurements above 70 parts per billion (ppb) areunhealthy for sensitive groups. 


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.