A quick guide to safe breathing

Lakeview’s air quality has declined in recent days as wildfires continue to burn in western Oregon and northern California. Today’s Air Quality Index is 174, or unhealthy. But what does that actually mean? Here’s a little more information to help you stay safe on these smoky days.

What is the Air Quality Index?

The Air Quality Index is a measurement of how many particulates are in the air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes the index as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the number on the yardstick, the more polluted the air. Air quality in Jodhpur, India, one of the smoggiest places in the world, is 159 today. Redding, California, is 185 this morning.

Those cities’ numbers, and ours, are in the “Unhealthy” range on the index.

What does 'Unhealthy' mean?

The Air Quality Index is divided into six levels based on how many particulates are in the air. A level of 0 to 50 is Good, 51 to 100 is Moderate, 101 to 150 is Unhealthy to Sensitive Groups, 151 to 200 is Unhealthy, 201 to 300 is Very Unhealthy, and 301 to 500 is Hazardous.

Moderate means air quality might impact a handful of people who are unusually sensitive to ozone, according to the EPA. The “sensitive groups” in the next level include people with lung disease, older adults, and children.

When the index level hits Unhealthy, everyone may experience adverse health effects if they spend much time breathing in the polluted air. The sensitive groups might have more serious health effects. At the Very Unhealthy level, everyone is at risk of serious health impacts, and when the level reaches Hazardous, emergency conditions might be triggered.

What steps do I need to take?

When the Air Quality Index is Unhealthy, the best thing to do is stay inside as much as possible. The EPA advises reducing long or intense outdoor activities and taking more breaks. Children, seniors, and other sensitive groups should “avoid long or intense outdoor activities or consider moving them indoors,” according to the EPA.

What about masks?

No authority has yet recommended wearing masks to avoid smoke in and around Lakeview, according to Lake County Public Health. The recommendations primarily involve not going outside and finding clean air spaces.

Where can I learn more?

Find out more about the Air Quality Index on the EPA’s AirNow website. Follow Lake County Public Health on Facebook to stay up to date on local air quality.