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Wildfire Smoke Means Air Quality Can Change Quickly

Sep 6, 2017

TACOMA, Wash.—Smoke from regional wildfires has returned to Pierce County. According to the State Department of Ecology, air quality is currently unhealthy. Sensitive groups should be especially cautious. These groups include:

Adults older than 65.
Pregnant women.
Infants and children.
People with heart or lung disease, such as asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
People with diabetes.
People who have had a stroke.

The closer you are to a wildfire, the greater risk to your health. Generally, during times of poor air quality, people in sensitive groups should monitor air quality and limit time spent outdoors. Everyone’s health situation is unique. Check with your health care provider if you have concerns about air quality. On Aug. 29, the Health Department issued the same guidance because of wildfire smoke.

Conditions can change quickly. Pierce County has four monitoring stations. Air quality can vary slightly across the county, based on wind, weather, and elevation. To see current conditions nearest you, visit the State Department of Ecology website at

Should you be concerned about ash in the air?

Just like smoke, ash can irritate your eyes and lungs. The human body is better equipped to filter out these larger particles because of the hairs in your nose or when you close your mouth or eyes. You can also stay indoors to limit your exposure to ash.

Unlike ash, the particles in smoke that can cause more serious health concerns are much smaller. These fine particles are one-twentieth the width of human hair, which means the body can’t filter them out as easily. For this reason, the Health Department advises residents to take appropriate precautions during air quality alerts.

Air quality resources

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

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency—

Washington Smoke Blog—
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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