Beware of Smoke in the Air


UPDATED: October 17, 2017

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department is advising residents to take precautions due to the visible smoke in the air. The current situation is a result of very unhealthy air quality from the wildfires in the North Bay and is causing unprecedented levels of air pollution throughout the Bay Area.

Individuals most at risk for illness due to smoke in the air include children, seniors and those with respiratory problems. These individuals should limit their exposure to smoky air by staying indoors as much as possible. Windows and doors should be kept closed to prevent indoor air from becoming dirty.

Due to the active wildfires and changing wind patterns, air quality could be impacted for many days to come. Outside of the active fire areas, air quality will be variable and unpredictable. Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly. 

To help safeguard your health, the Public Health Department recommends the following. If residents see or smell smoke in their area, they should avoid outdoor activity including exercise. It is recommended that parents and school administrators check air quality readings before allowing children to practice outdoor sports while air quality is unhealthy.

If possible, stay indoors with windows and doors closed and air conditioning units on recirculate to avoid drawing outside air into buildings. Children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD, emphysema and heart disease are most impacted.
Because of the serious air quality conditions we are asking residents to avoid adding additional air pollution activities such as wood burning, lawn mowing, leaf blowing, driving, and barbecuing.

Many residents may have questions about using masks to help with protection from wildfire smoke. The most important thing you can do is to stay indoors as much as possible when you smell or see smoke in the air. If the air quality is in the “unhealthy” category (see or​), the best protection is to limit your time outside and stay indoors whenever if possible. Inside air quality is better than outside air quality.  People who must spend a long time outdoors in unhealthy air may want to use specific masks that filter small smoke particles. It is important to know dust and surgical masks will not protect lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke. If you have respiratory or heart conditions, talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to wear a mask. ​


More Information:

Real time air quality from United States Environmental Protection Agency Air Now

Information on masks for those who expect significant exposure to smoke from the California Department of Public Health

Air quality forecasts and health advisories from state Bay Area Air Quality Management District

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