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Smoke Creates "Hazardous" Air

Schools Cancel Outdoor Activities

The air quality in our region is the worst it has been since the big fires in the summer of 2015. Officials are warning folks to try to limit their exposure to the outside air if possible.

Bob Lutz is the Spokane County Health officer who says the particulate levels are now bad enough they pose a risk to everyone, not just those with breathing disorders like asthma.

“There is definitely an accumulative effect, and so the more you're breathing in, the more this fine particulate matter is going deep into your lungs, and that’s where it’s going to cause the problem,” he says.

Lutz says the particulates cause inflammation in your lungs, and while a person who is in good general health will heal, for some it can cause long term problems. He says the best advice right now is to try to limit exposure by staying inside. If someone must be outside they should try to limit outdoor activity as much as they can and take breaks.

He says there are masks that you can use to prevent inhaling the particulates, but they aren’t completely effective. "So if you are being active, sometimes it will seem if you are breathing through a straw. And in and of themselves the masks are fitted to the face. If you have facial hair then they are not properly fitted you can get air coming to the side, and it’s really sort of defeating the purpose.”

Lutz says the masks, labeled N-95 or N-100, can be found at some medical supply houses or some hardware stores.

SD81 Keeps Kids Indoors, Cancels Field Trips

Spokane School district officials are taking the health threat of the thick smoke from wildfires very seriously.

The district had worked out a strategy with the Regional Health District and Spokane Clean Air Agency as how to proceed when particulate levels reach a specific threshold. Early today (Tuesday), the level reached the “hazardous “ level at some monitoring stations.

School district spokesman Kevin Morrison says the district is taking several steps to ensure students safety. “Practices for any kind of sports will be done indoors. All recesses, we have sent a directive to all of our schools that the recesses be indoors with light activity per the recommendations of those two lead agencies, we’ve also canceled some field trips that were scheduled," he said.

Morrison says they recognize some parents may feel more comfortable keeping their child home during these smoky conditions, especially those with any breathing disorders, and they will get an excused absence.