Health experts are saying 2017 was one of the worst for Bay Area air quality because of the wine country fires, and then the Thomas fire in Los Angeles, which is still burning and has sent smoke drifting our way. Now stagnant weather is creating unhealthy conditions and triggering Spare the Air alerts, day after day, after day.
Tuesday's Spare the Air alert is the 18th this season.
There were 30 Spare the Air days in two previous seasons, the most recent the winter of 2013-14. So, we have not set a record, which is good because the alerts mean our air quality is extremely poor, and downright dangerous for some people, according to UCSF Pulmonary Disease Specialist Dr. John Balmes.
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"People with asthma, chronic affected pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease and stroke are all at risk of having exacerbations or recurrences of their disease," Balmes said.
The Spare the Air alerts are designed to reduce that risk by making it illegal to burn wood or fake logs in fireplaces or outside. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District says smoke from one fireplace can pollute an entire neighborhood and there are an estimated 1.5 million fireplaces in the Bay Area.
"Wood burning is the number one source of fine particulate pollution in the winter time and it accounts for about 40 percent of all pollution. On-road vehicles are only about 13 percent," Aaron Richardson with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said.
Now heading into our 18th Spare the Air alert this season, there is advice for the vulnerable.
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"I advise them to stay indoors as much as they possibly can. If they go outside, not to exercise and if the pollution is really bad to wear particulate masks," Balmes said.
Air district officials hope the public won't become complacent from hearing the repeated announcements.
"One of the challenges of our job is just to make sure people understand this is a continuing issue," Richardson said.
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