The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has again extended an air quality health advisory for fine particulates.
The alert will remain in effect until at least midnight Thursday. The alert comes as air quality levels in the Rochester region are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 155 for fine particulates. The alert covers Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Livingston, northern Cayuga and Oswego counties.
The AQI is a standardized scale developed to simplify the understanding of different pollutants' impact on human health. A higher AQI value indicates a greater health concern. With the current pollution levels elevated, the New York State Department of Health advises individuals to consider reducing strenuous outdoor physical activities to minimize the risk of adverse health effects.
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Those who are particularly susceptible to the effects of increased pollutant levels are the very young and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or heart disease, according to the alert. It is recommended that individuals experiencing symptoms consult their personal physician for guidance. For more information on the Air Quality Health Advisory, visit the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website or call the Air Quality Hotline at 1-800-535-1345.
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Here's a closer look at what's happening and some suggested precautions for dealing with the air quality alert issued for the Rochester region:
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Smoke from Canada's wildfires has been moving into the United States since last month. The most recent fires near Quebec have been burning for at least several days.
“Wind coming out of the northwest is pulling wildfire smoke across New York state,” said Tony Ansuini, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo. “It looks like we have low pressure off the eastern United States, and that will keep this northwest flow through the remainder of the week.”
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Air quality alerts are triggered by a number of factors, including the detection of fine-particle pollution — known as “PM 2.5” — which can irritate the lungs.
“We have defenses in our upper airway to trap larger particles and prevent them from getting down into the lungs. These are sort of the right size to get past those defenses,” said Dr. David Hill, a pulmonologist in Waterbury, Connecticut, and a member of the American Lung Association's National Board of Directors. “When those particles get down into the respiratory space, they cause the body to have an inflammatory reaction to them.”
The air quality alerts caution “sensitive groups,” a big category that includes children, older adults, and people with lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Kids, who often are encouraged to go out and play, “are more susceptible to smoke for a number of reasons,” said Laura Kate Bender, the lung association's National Assistant Vice President, healthy air. “Their lungs are still developing, they breathe in more air per unit of body weight.”
How to protect yourself during air quality alert in Rochester NY
It's a good time to put off that yard work and outdoor exercise. If you go out, consider wearing an N95 mask to reduce your exposure to pollutants. Stay inside, keeping your doors, windows and fireplaces shut. It's recommended that you run the air conditioning on a recirculation setting.
On its website, the Environmental Protection Agency offers a number of other recommendations, including:
If you have an evaporative cooler, avoid using it because it can bring more smoke inside.
If you have a window air conditioner, close the outdoor air damper. If you can’t close it, do not use the window air conditioner. And make sure the seal between the air conditioner and the window is as tight as possible.
If you have a portable air conditioner with a single hose (typically vented out of a window), do not use it because it can bring more smoke inside.
If you have a portable air conditioner with two hoses, make sure that the seal between the window vent kit and the window is as tight as possible.
Use a portable air cleaner or high-efficiency filter to remove fine particles from the air, and run it on the highest fan speed.
Avoid activities that create more fine particles indoors: using gas, propane or wood-burning stoves and furnaces; spraying aerosol products; frying or broiling food; burning candles; vacuuming, unless you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
For more, go to epa.gov.
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Associated Press contributed to this story.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Air quality alert extended as fine particulates spike in Rochester NY