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Regional Wildfires Make Local Air Quality Unhealthy

Aug 3, 2017

TACOMA, Wash.—Air quality in Pierce County could remain unhealthy for the next several days, according to the State Department of Ecology. Smoke from wildfires in the state and British Columbia has affected local air quality. Unhealthy air quality can cause health concerns for everyone, especially people with existing health conditions.

“The unhealthy air quality can make it difficult to breathe, even for healthy people,” said Judy Olsen, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Environmental Health Specialist. “Hot weather can complicate the situation for some people, so residents should consult their doctors if they have questions,” Olsen said.

In fact, the Washington State Department of Health recommends clubs and organizations cancel youth outdoor events when the air quality is rated unhealthy or very unhealthy. This includes youth sports camps, practices, or games. The agency also recommends you avoid outside exercise when the air quality is unhealthy.

The effects of unhealthy air quality

Unhealthy air quality can affect everyone. Potential health effects include:

Heart palpitations.
Shortness of breath.
Eye and sinus irritation.

People with heart or lung diseases, such as asthma or COPD, those who have had a stroke, and older adults and children are among those most at risk of these health effects. People with these health conditions should check with their healthcare providers about how to manage during times of unhealthy air quality. If you have shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, or difficulty moving, contact your healthcare provider immediately or call 911.

Burn ban

Because of the unhealthy air quality, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued a Stage 1 burn ban for Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Snohomish counties. The ban means outdoor fires are prohibited. This means the following are not allowed:

Charcoal barbeques.
Fire pits, chimineas, fire bowls, or similar free-standing devices.
Campfires or bonfires.
Fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves, or uncertified inserts.
Agricultural fires (as described in the agricultural burn permit).

Learn more about the burn ban at

Find valuable information on air quality and learn what to do to protect your family at:

American Lung Association— or (800) 586-4872: A free helpline to talk to respiratory therapists and registered nurses if you have concerns about your lungs from smoke.
Washington Smoke Blog—
State Department of Ecology— Provides a map of active air quality issues.
State Department of Health— Provides information on how to protect against wildfire smoke.
National Weather Service— Weather related alerts, including air quality.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at

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