Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unhealthy Air Quality in South Puget Sound

Above: In a photo taken from Madison Scenic Park, the Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia is barely visible through the smoke Wednesday morning. 
Unhealthy air quality throughout South Puget Sound is making many people feel dizzy, head-achy, and short of breath this week. 

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Dizzy and head-achy? If you woke up Tuesday morning in South Sound feeling like you were experiencing a lingering weekend hangover, you were not alone. 

For many, those symptoms, along with a shortness of breath, were related to poor air quality. The conditions that adversely affect public health continued on Wednesday.

According to the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA), which serves Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston counties, air quality reached unhealthy levels due to wildfire smoke around the state and Canada.

ORCAA monitors air quality stations in Aberdeen, Cheeka Peak in Clallam County, Lacey, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Shelton, South Bend and Yelm.

At 11:00 a.m., the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) level reached 191 in Lacey. According to a chart legend, a range of 151 – 200 is considered unhealthy. A range between 201 -300 is considered very unhealthy.  

Yelm registered a level of 44, within the “good” air quality range of 0-50.

By 4:00 p.m., the WAQA reading for Lacey was 155.

The Washington State Department of Ecology created the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) information tool to advise the public about air quality levels. It advises the public on measurements of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particle pollution and fine particles and sulfur dioxide.

The data is collected and reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The WAQA bases its advice about air quality on lower levels of fine particles than the Environmental Protection Agency's national information tool, the Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories ranging from good to hazardous.

Studies show that certain levels of particles such as smoke and dust in the air can cause illness and death.