The air quality in the Tri-Cities deteriorated Saturday morning to a level that could cause even some healthy people to have breathing problems.
The Benton Clear Air Agency rated it as “very unhealthy,” a drop from a rating of “unhealthy” in recent days.
There was some improvement through the late morning, with air quality just barely making it back into the still undesirable category of “unhealthy” about 1 p.m. and remaining there through the afternoon.
If the air quality deteriorates again to “very unhealthy,” everyone should stay indoors, do only light activities and keep windows closed, according to the state Department of Ecology.
If people must be outdoors, they should wear an N-95 respirator mask.
Some people should check with their health care provider to see if they should leave the area when air is in the very unhealthy category, according to the Department of Ecology. That includes people with asthma, with lung or heart disease, or who have a history of stroke.
Anyone with shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue or difficulty moving or speaking should call the their health care provider or 911.
234 air quality rating at 10 a.m. Saturday, rated “very unhealthy”
200 air quality rating at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, rated “very unhealthy”
172 air quality rating at 4 p.m. Saturday, rated “unhealthy”
Studies show that when the air quality reaches the level rated as “very unhealthy,” the number of people hospitalized for lung diseases can be 50 percent more than normal.
When the air quality is rated as “unhealthy,” as it was Saturday afternoon, time outdoors should be limited, and team sports should be canceled, according to the Department of Ecology.
Even indoor activities should not be strenuous.
People with chronic health conditions and infants, children, pregnant woman and people over age 65 should stay indoors.
Smoke from fires in British Columbia is continuing to move across Eastern Washington, fouling the air.
Monitors in Sunnyside to the west of the Tri-Cities and Mesa to the north also showed air quality as “very unhealthy” Saturday morning.
Friday, the Department of Ecology posted online that “air monitors around Washington state are lighting up the maps like a Christmas tree.”
We’ve never seen numbers like this across the board. Washington’s air quality is the worst in the nation.
Washington State Department of Ecology
A color-coded system is used to indicate air quality issues.
“We’ve never seen numbers like this across the board,” it said. “Washington’s air quality is the worst in the nation.”
Western Washington had relief Saturday morning, with the Seattle area air quality monitors showing air that was rated as “good,” but with somewhat worse air quality to the north and much worse air quality to the west.
The Tri-Cities is expected to have air quality issues at least until Wednesday and possibly longer.
The National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert through noon Wednesday, but expects widespread haze to linger at least through Friday night.
Hot weather will persist.
A high of 99 degrees is forecast for Sunday in the Tri-Cities, despite the smoke keeping some of the sun’s rays from hitting the Earth.
Highs are expected to be about 100 to 101 degrees Monday through Thursday, according to the weather service.
The Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine warned that animals also could be harmed by the smoke.
People have a mistaken belief that because animals originated in the wild, they have developed some mysterious superpowers that allow them to tolerate any condition.
Robert Dyke, veterinary faculty member at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital
“Mammals’ lungs are all very similar, and some in other species, like birds, are extremely sensitive to particulates in the air,” said Robert Dyke, a veterinary faculty member in the Community Practice Service of WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Large animals, such as livestock and horses, seem to deal with wildfire smoke better than pets, according to information from WSU.
Rather than walk dogs outdoors when there are concerns about air quality, “a quick outing in the yard is best. By all means, though, avoid intensive exercise during these periods of poor air quality,” Dyke said.
Birds should remain indoors.
“People have a mistaken belief that because animals originated in the wild, they have developed some mysterious superpowers that allow them to tolerate any condition,” Dyke said.
“That’s not true,” he said. “Birds, especially pet birds, are extremely susceptible to respiratory insult from smoke and particulates in the air.”