Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Air Advisory in State – What This Means When Working Outdoors

We’ve all noticed the haze and gloomy air hanging around this past week.  This haze is caused by over 180 fires blazing in British Columbia, Canada. 

There are over 2 million acres of wildfires raging across Canada and into Alaska.  Currently there is no real end in sight.  The smoke from these fires has risen to over 20,000 feet which then allows the jet stream to act as a highway, transporting the smoke across the country. 

The state that has felt the largest impact is Minnesota, however there have been health advisories issued across the Western and Midwestern parts of the United States.  The reason that Minnesota is so heavily impacted is due to the East/Southeast direction of wind movement, which has put us directly in the line of “fire”, so to speak.  

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a statewide Air Advisory on Monday, which indicated that the northern two-thirds of the state should take extra precautions due to the reduced air quality from the smoke infiltration. What does this mean?
Exposure to the high level of fine particles has previously been linked with respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.  There is a risk of exacerbation with pre-existing health conditions, which can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue.

The level of fine particulate in the air on Monday was unhealthy for anyone.  Those individuals that are sensitive to fine particles (pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease, elderly, children, and individuals who are under heavy or extended exertion are advised to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and reduce exposure to air pollution (heavy duty vehicle exhaust, wood fires, candles).
Those in the “at risk” or higher risk groups should check the Air Quality Index prior to vigorous activity being resumed.  For current air quality conditions visit the Air Quality Index page.

By Tara Bursey, Loss Control Consultant

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