Smoky skies return to the Willamette Valley

Smoke Maps over Oregon

EUGENE, Ore. ā€” The air quality in the Eugene and Springfield areas has once again reached unhealthy levels, with wind shifts blowing smoke from nearby fires into the valley.

With a number of fires burning both south and east of Eugene, smoke particles are filling the sky and traveling westward with the wind, creating a thick smog.

The smoke particles that are filling the air can also easily get into your lungs, causing health problems for many. The most susceptible are the elderly, infants, and those with asthma.

"The smoke particulates in the atmosphere irritate the lungs, making breathing more difficult," said Robert Stalbow, Respiratory Therapist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. "We recommend that people in the higher risk groups reduce their exposure to the hot outdoor air for the duration of this weather event. These groups include infants, children, pregnant women and adults over age 65, as well as those with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or those who have had a stroke."

It is also possible that the smoke could get inside your home as well.

The pollution in question is known as "PM2.5" - that's shorthand for particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in size or smaller.

"Particles bigger than 10 micrometers can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat but do not usually reach your lungs. Ten micrometers is about seven times thinner than one human hair," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained.

The CDC says prolonged exposure to fine particulate matter pollution has been linked to:

increased emergency department visits and hospital stays for breathing and heart problems,

breathing problems,

asthma symptoms to get worse,

adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight,

decreased lung growth in children,

lung cancer, and

early deaths.

According to CDC, the people at the highest risk include:

People with heart or lung diseases because they will feel the effects of particulate matter sooner and at lower ozone levels than less-sensitive people.

Older adults because they may not know they have lung or heart disease. When particle levels are high, older adults are more likely than young adults to have to go to the hospital or die because the exposure to particle pollution has made their heart or lung disease worse.
Children because they are still growing and spend more time at high activity levels. When children come in contact with particle pollution over a long period of time they may have problems as their lungs and airways are developing. This exposure may put them at risk for lowered lung function and other respiratory problems later in life. Children are more likely than adults to have asthma and other respiratory problems that can worsen when particle pollution is high.
Infants because their lungs continue to develop after birth and can be impacted by air pollutants.

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