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Smoky Air? Protect yourself from wildfires

  • 5/3/2021 6:05:00 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? Or, the grass burning in the Flint Hills of Kansas? If the air seems smoky, you can easily check for large or small fires burning close to you. Look at the newly updated Fire and Smoke map on AirNow.

Set your location on the map, then click on the nearest air quality monitor to find results for small particulate matter (also known as smoke) levels. These small particles can cause serious health problems, including asthma and heart attacks, strokes and early death.

But you can protect yourself by using the Air Quality Index to plan outdoor activities. If the AQI is green, air quality is good. A yellow color indicates acceptable air quality, but there may be a risk for people who are 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 index shows 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 3 – 7 is national Clean Air Week. Find out more about particle pollution 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.