December 1, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As the Nakia Creek Fire continues to burn northeast of Camas, Washington, experts say the air quality in much of the region ranges from “moderate” to “very unhealthy.”

On Wednesday, the smoke forced Portland Public Schools and the Beaverton School District to cancel events and keep kids indoors.  

Experts told KOIN 6 News that staying indoors and avoiding physical activity is a good idea as advisories are extended through Thursday.

“Many areas of the state are experiencing smoke effects now, but certainly over the past few years across the state, everybody has had wildfire smoke impact them,” said Gabriela Goldfarb of the Oregon Health Authority.

As the Environmental Public Health Section Manager for OHA, Goldfarb says experts are concerned about the smoke and its impacts on residents’ health.

With air quality in the “unhealthy level” KOIN 6 News Meteorologist Joseph Dames said Wednesday, “this is due to the trapped particulates from a temperature inversion. Improvements are coming on Thursday evening.”

Goldfarb noted “you’d need 30 of these strung together to form the width of a human hair. So, they’re super tiny particles, and they’re called PM 2.5. And they pose a health risk because they’re so tiny they can reach deep into our lungs and into our bloodstream.”

According to Goldfarb, particle-pollution exposure has been linked to health problems like decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, heart attacks and premature death.

“It can certainly affect everybody, but those most susceptible and vulnerable include infants, children, pregnant women and their fetuses, the elderly, those with existing lung, heart or liver disease, and people who are engaging in extended physical activity,” Goldfarb explained.

To help reduce the risk of exposure, OHA recommends staying indoors, closing windows and using an air purifier.

Goldfarb said you can build your own using a box fan, filters and duct tape.

“It’s fairly simple. A 20-by-20 by either one, two, or four-inch filter, basically just strapped behind a box fan. You want to make sure the airflow is facing into the fan. You put it on the back and the air is just pulled through the fan and whatever particulates the filter can filter out will be taken out by that,” said Patrick Hoye of Ankeny Hardware.

Amid the poor air quality, Ankeny said items like fans and filters, as well as standard air purifiers and N-95 masks have been popular.

“It’s nice that everyone, no matter where they are in life, can afford to keep themselves healthy by not sucking in all the debris in the in the air that’s coming through with the smoke,” Hoye said.

To help keep air quality clean, OHA also recommends people minimize any burning items like candles, incense, or barbeques. They also say to wait to vacuum, do yardwork or any activity that might kick up dust until air quality improves.

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