Blazes raise air quality concerns

Posted Oct. 26, 2007

Francine Gobert
Staff Writer

As strong winds blow the smoke from the raging wildfires across Southern California, no area in the Southland is free of the potential health hazards associated with breathing such heavy smoke and and ash.

The dust, ash and smoke that surround us can cause irritation of the lungs among other conditions that can result in long-term diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and possibly cancer.

“Fine particles may be invisible to the naked eye, but pose health concerns especially for the elderly, young children, and those who have respiratory problems,” said Tina Cherry, spokeswoman for the South Coast Air Quality Manage­ment District.

The AQMD is an organization that consistently monitors the air quality and imposes regulations to control air pollution in San Bernardino, Orange, River­side and Los Angeles counties.

The District provides daily advisories based on the air quality and is currently monitoring the areas that are affected by the fires with monitoring devices to keep residents updated on the air quality.

“Some of the smoke may not get to the monitors so the advisories are for all people,” Cherry said.

The most recent advisories include that all residents and school officials should avoid outdoor activities if they see or smell smoke.

The unhealthy air is currently concentrated with particulate matter called PM10, which comes directly from the smoke and wind.

As for the effects on the campus, the athletics department has been keeping an eye on current conditions.

“We are monitoring conditions very carefully and advising coaches on a day to day basis,” said University of La Verne athletic director Chris Ragsdale.

As the air continues to be filled with unhealthy particles such facilities as the athletic department are taking such precautions in the interest of the athletes.

Movement and Sports Science faculty and staff are monitoring the air through such air quality indexes as the AQMD provides. The athletics department has even gone as far as rescheduling games that were scheduled for Wednesday due to the poor air quality.

The football game on Saturday, scheduled to be held at Ted Runner Stadium at the University of Redlands was relocated to Palm Desert High School and soccer games were postponed to Monday due to concerns with the current state of the air quality

“Limit outdoor activity and take measures needed to protect yourself,” Cherry said.

Along with Cherry’s suggestions for staying healthy, the AQMD provides some tips you can follow to protect yourself and your family members from unhealthful air:

  • Stay indoors. Choose indoor options when air pollution levels are unhealthful. Keep your windows and doors closed. Use your air conditioning system and place it on recirculation mode, if available.
  • Reduce outdoor activity. Reducing your physical activity in outdoor areas lowers the amount of polluted air your body intakes.
    Curtail your involvement in outdoor activities and events that require prolonged exposure and strenuous exercise or sports participation.
  • Stay alert. Listen to your local news and weather forecasts and air quality alerts provided by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).

If the air quality in your area worsens take necessary precautions and plan your activities accordingly.

“Some things students can remember are to stay inside whenever possible, reduce outdoor activity, and stay alert.” said Cindy Denne, director of the student health center, said.

Denne, recently encountered a student who developed a bad sinus infection due to all of the smoke.

She emphasized that it is important to seek medical help if you do have symptoms,” Denne said. “Make sure your doing what’s in your best interest and remember students can come in (to the health center).”

To reach the health center, call 909-593-3511 extension 4254 or visit www.ulv.edu/healthcenter.

For additional information about air quality, contact the AQMD at (800) CUT-SMOG or www.aqmd.gov.

Francine Gobert can be reached at fgobert@ulv.edu.

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