As the Maria Fire continues to burn thousands of acres in Ventura County, smoke may be impacting air quality throughout Santa Barbara County. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District have issued an Air Quality Alert through the weekend, or until conditions improve.
In Carpinteria, under the direction of First District Supervisor Das Williams, a fine particulate matter (PM2.5) monitor has been set up at the Main School. High PM2.5 levels indicate an increased amount of air pollutant that may have health impacts.
Levels of smoke and particles, and areas impacted, will vary. “If you see or smell smoke in the air, be cautious and use common sense to protect your and your family’s health,” advises the county. “Everyone—especially people with heart or lung conditions (including asthma), older adults, pregnant women and children—should limit time spent outdoors and avoid outdoor exercise when high concentrations of smoke and particles are in the air.”
Symptoms of smoke exposure include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest tightness or pain, nausea and unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.
The county recommends that when smoke is present, residents stay inside with their windows and doors closed as well as creating a “clean air room” by running a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) purifier. Purifiers are available online or at home improvement stores and start at approximately $75. HEPA purifiers can reduce indoor particulate levels by up to 90 percent. A less expensive, but similarly effective, option involves attaching a MERV-rated filter to a box fan, which costs $30-$40.
If using a mask, the county reminds residents to use N-95 masks correctly. N-95 masks can reduce smoke exposure outdoors by up to 95 percent but only if they fit properly.
Scarves, bandanas and surgical masks are not effective and should not be used.
Masks must fit snugly around the nose and chin, making them unsuitable for children or people with facial hair. People with heart and lung conditions should talk to their doctor before using an N-95 mask, as the masks can restrict airflow. N-95 masks should not be used to extend time outdoors beyond what is necessary.
For current conditions and forecasts, visit OurAir.org/todays-air-quality.