Western wildfire smoke blankets much of nation, leads to health worries

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Smoke from historic western wildfires is choking cities like Seattle and San Francisco, but it is also clouding skies across the nation. Both the northern and southern jet streams, rivers of fast-moving air in the upper atmosphere, are transporting that smoke from coast to coast, creating worries for those with lung conditions.  

“And we start getting lots of calls from people that are impacted, whether they are nearby or farther away, asking what they need to do when they see the smoke and when they see the haze,” said Angela Tin, the National Senior Director for Environmental Health for the American Lung Association.

Tin says that while the air quality here in the Midwest isn’t terrible, since we’re about 2,000 to 5,000 feet away from the actual smoke, there are still reasons for people who are sensitive to the smoke and air pollution to be concerned.

“So while the normal person could see the haze and just acknowledge it, sensitive people have to be careful and they have to stay inside, and they have to protect themselves,” she said.

Tin says those with anxieties should be extra cautious and watch for daily alerts.

“There are air quality monitors and there are air quality alerts that go out. And in St. Louis and Chicago, we’re sometimes hitting the yellow are but we’ve not reached the red or higher,” she said.

Red means a forecast for unhealthy air, where members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.  Daily air quality forecasts are created with data from the  Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

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