Poor air quality can be combated with air purifiers, rated face masks, staying indoors | PostIndependent.com

Poor air quality can be combated with air purifiers, rated face masks, staying indoors

People walk and jog across the Grand Avenue Pedestrian Bridge on a very smoky morning in Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

People with respiratory conditions, heart disease, the elderly and the very young should stay indoors and take extra precautions during periods of poor air quality, a medical professional said.

“The first thing people can do to keep themselves safe is recognize whether or not they are at risk,” said Dr. Kevin Coleman, Grand River Health chief medical officer. “With all the smoke in the air, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the Environmental Protection Agency air quality index.” 

Colorado’s air quality warnings can be viewed here, and the EPA index is viewable at http://www.airnow.gov

“Another easy indicator for air quality,” Coleman said, “is if the visibility is below five miles, the air quality is likely poor, and you should stay indoors when possible.”

PurpleAir Sensor data can also provide people around Garfield County with information about the air quality in their area, but Garfield County Public Health Environmental Health Specialist Anna Cochran said the sensors are not as accurate as the EPA’s.

“PurpleAir is a public access website where people can post air quality data from their sensors,” Cochran said, explaining the sensors are privately owned. “Consider the quality of the data being presented. It’s a network of low-cost sensors typically used as indicators of levels of particulate in the air.”

Without oversight, the sensors might not all be calibrated or maintained to the same standards. PurpleAir sensors are not considered accurate enough to be used in regulatory actions, Cochran said. If people are interested in using the PurpleAir data, she said they should adjust the Map Data Layer settings to provide readings for one-day or one-hour averages.

Breathing easier

Two people fish along the bank of the Colorado River at Two Rivers Park on a very smoky morning in Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

When possible, people at-risk for respiratory problems should avoid being in areas with poor air quality, Coleman said.

“Not everyone can manage it,” he said. “But, if you have friends or relatives that live in an area with better air quality, it would be worth it to go visit them until the worst of it has passed.” 

When leaving isn’t an option, people should stay indoors, keep their windows and doors shut, avoid cooking with natural gas, lighting candles or vacuuming.

“Anything that deteriorates the air quality inside should be avoided,” Coleman said. 

Additionally, he said people with central air or air conditioning should run their units, but only after closing the outside air intake. 

Cochran said people can purchase indoor air purifiers with high-rated High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, but they should not use swamp coolers when the air quality is poor.

If leaving the house is unavoidable during the worst periods of air quality, Coleman said at-risk people can purchase face masks rated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at N95 or P100.

“Common dust masks won’t do much to keep out smoke particulate,” he explained.

Go to the Garfield County Public Health website for more information about air quality advisories in Garfield County.


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