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Wildfires & Air Quality Index

Learn how to protect your health during wildfires.

Wildfires and Air Quality Index

Wildfires become more and more prevalent in California every year. Smoke containing a mixture of gases, fine particles, and chemicals travels miles always from the source. Particulate matter from this smoke can enter the bloodstream through the lungs and cause a variety of health problems. Short-term effects include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These particles can also exacerbate chronic heart and lung diseases like asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). See below for current levels of air quality and the recommended actions for high pollution days.

Current San Diego Air Quality Index

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) AIRNow Conditions: 

 - https://files.airnowtech.org/airnow/today/cur_aqi_sandiego_ca.jpg
PurpleAir Conditions: 

Taking Action

Sensitive populations should take the following actions immediately. This includes people with respiratory conditions like asthma and women who may be pregnant.

Recommended actions for everyone at 'unhealthy' air quality levels above 150:

  • Stay Indoors
    • Close doors and windows and recirculate indoor air
    • Reduce indoor pollution - don’t use candles, wood stoves or fireplaces, or smoke
  • Limit outdoor activity – no exercise
    • Exercise and physical activity cause you to breathe more deeply, allowing more particles to get into your lungs
  • Use an air purifier or go to a clean air zone on campus (listed below)
    • Using an air purifier further ensures that the indoor air is clean by removing particles
    • If you don't have an air purifier, you are not sure if your home is properly filtering the air, or you don't have an air conditioner and can't keep the windows closed, consider going to a clean air zone
  • Only use a respirator mask (NIOSH N95 or N100) if it has been recommended by a physician and you have been properly fitted
    • Dust masks and bandanas will not protect you from particulate matter and other harmful pollutants
    • Wearing this mask can make breathing more difficult and therefore may not be recommended for those with heart and lung diseases – check with your health care provider

For Sensitive Groups (older adults, children, those with heart or lung disease, and pregnant women):

  • Begin taking recommended actions at 'unhealthy for sensitive groups,' levels 101 and above
    • Sensitive groups will start to feel the harmful effects of smoke at lower levels of air pollution so need to take action to reduce their exposure to smoke sooner
  • Consider relocating to an area with better air quality
    • When air quality levels remain high for a prolonged period of time, fine particles from smoke can build up indoors so you may need to leave the area
  • Seek medical care if needed
    • Follow your doctor's advice and contact your doctor if symptoms persist
    • Seek medical treatment immediately if you experience any heart symptoms.

Clean Air Zones on Campus:

  • If resources become available and there is a need, the campus will notify students, faculty, and staff of clean air locations with proper air filtration systems. 

Resources