Health

San Benito County air quality at unhealthy level due to regional fires

Public advised to limit outdoor activity.
West Hollister. Photo by Noe Magaña.
West Hollister. Photo by Noe Magaña.

Information provided by County of San Benito.

On Aug. 19, San Benito issued a health advisory for air quality in relation to several fires burning in neighboring counties. The advisory asks the public to limit outdoor activity.

What is the problem? 
The fires throughout California continue to create smoke that drifts into San Benito County. The Monterey Bay Air Resources District, which includes our county, reports that the air quality throughout San Benito County is at an “unhealthy” level. An unhealthy level is defined as some members of the general may experience health effects: members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. The fires are expected to continue as containment at this time in minimal. If you see smoke in the air or smell smoke, then there can be risks to your health.

What are the possible health effects?
Smoke from forest fires can cause:

  • eye irritation, redness and eyestrain
  • lung irritation, coughing and shortness of breath
  • asthma attacks or worsening of existing asthma and respiratory allergies

Who is at highest risk?

  • People with asthma, respiratory problems, heart problems and diabetes
  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant women
  • Frail elderly
  • People whose jobs require extended time outdoors

What can you do if you smell or see smoke in your area?

  • The California Department of Public Health requires you to wear a mask when in public.
  • Those at high risk should stay indoors or consider temporarily leaving the area.
  • Do not exercise outdoors. Limit exercise to the indoors such as in your home, gymnasiums or fitness centers.
  • Keep windows and doors closed. Use air conditioners if possible.
  • Consider sending outdoor workers home if air quality become unhealthy.
  • Do not create more smoke.  Do not use wood stoves, fire pits or barbecues. Avoid using leaf blowers and weed whackers. Avoid driving your vehicles if you don’t need to.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible. Do not use candles or incense, aerosol sprays, vacuum cleaners and other objects that can cause particles to rise into the air.

If you or someone you know is having trouble breathing, contact a health care provider for advice.  Please be aware that air quality can change quickly as fires progress and wind changes direction. For real-time air quality reports go to http://mbard.org/air-quality/ and http://www.cdc.gov/features/wildfires/.

BenitoLink Staff