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Smoky Air? Protect yourself from wildfires

  • 4/28/2022 1:15:00 PM
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DES MOINES—Healthy air is important for everyone. Breathing smoke, however, can be a risky prospect. 

Remember haze blanketing the sky from the Canadian forest fires? If it seems smoky outside, you can check for large or small fires burning close to you. Look at the Fire and Smoke map on AirNow.

Set your location on the map, then click on the nearest air quality monitor (round circle) to find results for small particulate matter (also known as smoke) levels. If monitors are green, air quality is good. Look for fire symbols or check the fire icons on the left to see if there’s a fire or smoke plume detected within 150 miles of your location. 

Small particles can cause serious health problems, including asthma and heart attacks, strokes and early death. You can protect yourself by using the Air Quality Index to plan outdoor activities. If monitors on the AQI are yellow, air quality is acceptable, but there may be a risk for people sensitive to air pollution. Risks may be higher for people with heart or lung disease, and for children, athletes and older adults. 

Although it seldom happens in Iowa, if the monitors show orange or red, it’s more likely for sensitive groups to be affected (orange) or for some of the general public to have health effects (red). On those days, you can limit your exposure to particle pollution by:

  • Spending less time outdoors.
  • Choosing light exercise over strenuous activities.
  • Limiting time near pollution sources like busy roads. 

May 2 – 6 is national Clean Air Week. Find out more about particle pollution and fire risks from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Learn what you can do to improve air quality in Iowa, including 6 Ways to Keep Air Healthy

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