Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017 - San Luis Obispo County - Smoke Impacts

Contact:      Rubi Rajbanshi, 805-781-5912
                     SLO County Air Pollution Control District

                    Dr. Penny Borenstein, 805-781-5500
                    SLO County Public Health Department


SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA, – The San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Air Pollution Control District and Public Health Department are working in partnership to assess the air quality, to identify any potential health impacts and to inform the community about safeguarding individual health. At this time, San Luis Obispo County is being impacted by smoke from wildfires in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. For comparison of the last 3 – 24-hour periods, we have provided the chart below which demonstrates the air quality for several locations. 
Expect skies to be hazy and fine particulate (PM2.5) concentrations to be higher than normal. Changing winds make it difficult to predict which areas of the county may be most affected. However, until the fires are put out, smoke will likely be intermittently present in our region.
If you smell smoke or see ash fall
County officials recommend that if you smell smoke, take precautions and use common sense to reduce your exposure to smoke. When it is obvious that smoke is in the air, all adults and children should:
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity
  • Remain indoors as much as possible
  • Set any heating/air conditioning/ventilation systems to recirculate
These precautions are especially important for children, older adults, and people with existing respiratory illness and heart conditions, as they are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of poor air quality. Families with small children should be aware that even if adults in the household have no symptoms, children may experience symptoms due to their smaller body mass and developing lungs. If smoke increases, healthy people could be affected as well. If you experience a cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, exhaustion, light-headedness or chest pain, stop any outdoor activity immediately and seek medical attention. More information can be found at
To clean ash, please do the following:
Use a damp cloth and spray areas lightly with water, directing ash-filled water to ground areas, and away from the runoff system; take your vehicle to the car wash; wash off toys that have been outside in the ash; clean ash off pets; due to the corrosive nature of ash, avoid any skin contact with the ash (wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts); and do not use leaf blowers.  Please note, if you have existing heart or lung conditions, avoid doing ash clean-up yourself or anything else that stirs the particles back up into the air. In addition, do not allow children to play in the ash.
Regarding N95 masks:
While N95 masks, also known as respirators, are being distributed in Santa Barbara County, such personal protection is not warranted for SLO County residents at the present time, based on air quality monitoring data collected hourly. County officials are closely following the situation and contingency plans are in place to distribute masks as needed. Officials will provide updates with details as the situation develops.
People with certain serious underlying health conditions who are very sensitive to air quality may wish to talk with their doctor about whether an N95 would be of benefit, as the mask can reduce air flow. N95 masks provide the most protection only when fitted properly, based on use of a fit-test machine. Also, these masks are designed for adults, though may fit a child if their face is comparable in size to that of a petite adult.
For updates:
APCD and County officials will continue to closely monitor smoke impacts and air quality in San Luis Obispo County. By following the air quality index (AQI), the public can also monitor real-time air quality throughout SLO County. The AQI focuses on health effects individuals may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. The current and forecasted AQI is available via the APCD website: and you can also follow the SLO County APCD and Public Health Department Twitter feeds for the latest updates (@slocleanair and @SLOPublicHealth). 

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