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Eugene/Springfield air quality 'very unhealthy'

(Image courtesy LRAPA website)

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality continues to urge residents across the state to take steps to protect their health and help improve air quality.

According to Lane Regional Air Protection Agency's 24-Hour Air Quality Index, particulate matter continues to pollute the air in Lane County.

As of 1 p.m. Monday, Eugene/Springfield's predicted index is 280 ("very unhealthy"), while Cottage Grove (188) and Oakridge (172) are indexed in the "unhealthy" range.

Eugene/Springfield's predicted index was listed at 411 ("hazardous") during the 12 p.m. hour.

According to the LRAPA website, the 24-hour AQI is a prediction of what the 24-hour AQI average will be for the current day. The prediction is based on a weighted average of the last 12 hours of data, with the most recent hours being weighted more heavily.

DEQ issued an ozone advisory for Portland and the Willamette Valley from Saturday morning through at least Tuesday.

Ozone pollution peaks in the afternoon. On hot summer days, pollution from cars, gas-powered engines and ozone-producing chemicals in paints and aerosol sprays can create unhealthy levels of ozone.

Residents are urged to protect their health and help improve air quality by reducing pollution. Some ways to reduce air pollution include:

• Avoid unnecessary engine idling

• Refuel your vehicle during cooler evening hours

• Limit driving by combining errands or using public transportation

• Don't use gas-powered mowers or yard equipment

• Don't paint or use aerosol sprays

A number of large fires are burning in Oregon and unhealthy air quality readings have been common this summer in the Rogue, Umpqua and Willamette valleys as well as parts of Central Oregon and the Southern Coast.

Many of these fires, including the Chetco Bar Fire outside Brookings, will burn into the fall. Oregon has also seen smoke from large wildfires in Canada, which affected the Willamette Valley in early August, and from California wildfires, which have impacted the Rogue Valley in particular.

People can take the following precautions during wildfires:

- Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.

- Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.

- If you have heart disease, asthma or other respiratory ailments, or are over 65, you have a higher risk of illness from wildfire smoke.

- Small children and pregnant women are also at increased risk. People in any of these groups might consider leaving the area until air quality improves.

- People suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.

Remember, local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction.

Residents can view current air quality conditions on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Index, at http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/ , at www.lrapa.org for Lane County residents or at http://www.swcleanair.org/burning/airquality.asp for residents in the Vancouver area.

The color-coded tool categorizes air quality and makes specific recommendations about what precautions people in various groups should take depending on air quality conditions.

Statewide and fire specific forecasts are available on the Oregon Smoke Blog at https://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/ The site also displays data from portable monitors and those the U.S. Forest Service and the Lane Regional Protection Agency operate.

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