Breathing current Bay Area air compares to smoking '8 cigarettes,' health expert says

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- All of this smoke in the Bay Area is having an effect on our health so much so that one doctor says it's like smoking half a pack of cigarettes.

RELATED: Bay Area to breathe easier for few days before wildfire smoke returns this weekend

"There are probably about 200 different types of intoxicants in the air that we are breathing now and we don't know what they are. It can be parts of buildings, paint that is burned, certainly wood but also cars," said Dr. Mark Nicolls, Chief of the Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine Department at Stanford.

Dr. Nicolls is urging those in the critical bracket to stay indoors.

"People that have pre-existing conditions, like kids with asthma are more likely to get asthma exacerbation. Elderly folks can get strokes. There some systemic effects that we worry about," said Nicolls.

We are not yet at the peak of the fire season and Stanford Medicine is already researching the long term effects of the smoke from wildfires.

VIDEO: Bay Area shrouded in smoke as Northern California wildfires rage
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From Oakland to Point Reyes, smoke enveloped the Bay Area as fires scorched Northern California.

"Previous data has shown that smoke does have a deleterious effect on our lungs. Some long term exposure has shown a decrease in our lung function test by almost 3.5%. Short term exposure can lead to almost 1.1% decrease in our lung function," said Dr. Tina Sindher, an immunologist at Stanford Health Care.

Early findings pointing to polluted air creating changes in our immune system.

"Based on the air quality today that's like smoking 8 cigarettes if you're just outdoors without a mask just breathing normally," said Dr. Nicolls.

RELATED: Bay Area, California hit with some of the worst air quality in the world

"How long will it take for our lungs to heal from this?" ABC7's Luz Pena asked.

"I would like to think that most people will get better within a few days or weeks," Dr. Nicolls said.

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