From the Lenawee County Health Department
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Air Quality Alert
What is going on with the Air Quality? Why is it so hazy?
Yesterday, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy issued an air quality alert in 28 Michigan counties including Lenawee County. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Air Quality Index indicates that PM 2.5 is at “red” to “orange” or unhealthy levels across much of Michigan’s lower peninsula, especially for sensitive populations.
Why is this happening?
The current unhealthy levels of particulate matter are likely coming from wildfires burning in Canada that are causing smoke to move over parts of Michigan. In general, the health threats from wildfire smoke relate mainly to particles that are suspended in the air, especially the smaller particles like PM 2.5 that can more easily get into a person’s lungs.
Can wildfire smoke make me sick?
Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick. Even someone who is healthy can get sick if there is enough smoke in the air. Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including:
- Trouble breathing normally
- Stinging eyes
- A scratchy throat
- Runny nose
- Irritated sinuses
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- An asthma attack
- Fast heartbeat
What is our current air quality?
You can check your current air quality levels at airnow.gov by zip code.
Who is most at risk?
Older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke.
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
Follow these tips, especially if someone in your family (including you!) has heart or breathing problems, is an older adult or child, or is pregnant:
- Stay inside – Stay indoors and keep your indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is very hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Use a portable air cleaner with HEPA filters properly sized for the room. Seek shelter elsewhere with family or friends if you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed.
- Keep an eye on local advisories and check your air quality online - Michigan is currently experiencing unprecedented hot and dry conditions for this time of year, causing extreme fire danger locally, which may exacerbate the problem.
- Adjust your car settings – Don’t drive with your windows down; set your car A/C on recirculate (to keep smoke out).
- Adjust your outdoor activities – Don’t play or exercise outdoors. Use a well-fitted N95 or P100 respirator if you go outside when it is smoky. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores trap large particles like sawdust, but will not protect your lungs from smoke. Do not start a fire in your firepit or while camping.
- Adjust your indoor activities – Don’t use anything that burns, such as candles and fireplaces. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because that will put even more pollution into the air. Do not use a fireplace, gas logs, or gas stove. Do not fry or broil food, which can add particles to indoor air.
- Check with your doctor – Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease or cardiovascular disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.