October 10, 2017

A Special TUC Alert

Unsafe Air Quality Protection Tips

With the sudden spread of the Atlas and Tubbs Fires across Napa County, Sonoma County, and what is predicted to be Solano County, Touro University California is greatly concerned for the health and safety of our communities. We fully support our students, faculty, and alumni who are currently working tirelessly to help those in need as volunteers and at local hospitals, and we hope for the complete safety of all who have had to evacuate. As a leader in health and education, we care deeply about the well-being of our community.

In light of the smoke advisory, TUC's Dr. Trina Mackie, Associate Professor of Public Health, gives the following advice: 

With the wildfires tragically impacting Northern California, all of us in Vallejo and the greater Bay Area, need to remember to take precautions to protect our health from unsafe air quality until the smoke advisory is lifted. Children, the elderly, and asthmatics are most at risk, but all of us should reduce our time outdoors and in particular, avoid outdoor activities that increase our breathing rate. In addition to being a common trigger for asthma attacks, it can worsen other respiratory infections and heart disease. Covering one’s mouth with a damp bandana can help mitigate the very dry air produced by the fires, but don’t rely on common paper dust masks. They protect one from large particles, but not the hazardous fine particulate matter. Instead choose a mask called a particulate respirator that has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95”or “P100” (also often available at hardware stores). To be effective, it must be fitted properly with a complete face-to-mask seal. For help, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/respsource2.html#buyer.

Closing windows and doors and staying inside reduces our inhalation of the toxic smoke outside, but we should also avoid certain activities indoors at the same time in order to keep our indoor air as clean as possible. For example, vacuuming stirs up harmful particles already in our homes. Burning candles, using gas stoves, and cooking oil at high heat also generates indoor air pollution. If you use an air conditioner, make sure the fresh air intake is closed to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Consult your manual for how to do this. Vents can be covered just as one would to save on heating in the winter. If you don’t have an air conditioner and it is too hot to stay at home with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere and stay well-hydrated.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has a set of monitors around the Bay Area to capture regional air quality events and they issue daily air quality alerts (http://www.sparetheair.org/stay-informed/todays-air-quality) to which you can subscribe via email. This is the source of current advisories and recommendations around outdoor air quality. You can view the map of their monitors and the data here: www.baaqmd.gov/research-and-data/interactive-data-maps. Community members around the Bay Area are also working to get more information about local air quality conditions by installing a network of citizen run particulate matter real-time monitors (www.purpleair.com/map).

Air pollution comes from many different sources (wildfires, industries, transportation, agriculture, home cleaners, pesticides, personal care products, etc.) and is a major environmental risk to health. There is much that we can do to improve the indoor air quality in our homes, and collectively we can contribute to actions and policies that will improve our outdoor air quality. To learn more: