Air Quality Alerts
Portage County is experiencing air quality alerts due to the presence of dense smoke from the Canadian wildfires. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is currently in the Red "Unhealthy" category, which means everyone may experience health effects and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Those with existing medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and COPD are at higher risk and should take precautions seriously.
Find out your current air quality at AirNow.
Those Most at Risk
Some populations may experience more severe acute and chronic symptoms (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, asthma attacks, etc.) from exposure to wildfire smoke including:
- Their lungs are still developing and there is a greater likelihood of increased exposure to wildfire smoke because of more time spent outdoors, engaging in more vigorous activity, and inhaling more air per pound of body weight compared to adults.
- Older adults
- Adults older than 60 can be at a higher risk of harmful effects from wildfire smoke due to the frequency of pre-existing respiratory and heart conditions, as well as a decline in natural physiological defense systems.
- People with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular disease
- Individuals living with heart or lung diseases, such as coronary artery disease, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are more likely to be affected when fine particle pollution reaches an unhealthy level.
- People experiencing low socioeconomic status
- Socioeconomic status (SES) is often defined using a variety of indicators, such as level of education, poverty status, race/ethnicity, and location of residence. Lower SES compared to higher SES may contribute to increased exposure to wildfire smoke. For example, some residents may be exposed to a higher baseline of unhealthy air quality if located near other sources of air pollution, such as roadways, freeways, and areas with heavy industry. Moreover, minority and impoverished children and adults bear a disproportionate burden of heart and lung diseases, which may increase susceptibility to the health effects of wildfire smoke.
How to Stay Safe
To stay safe during this time, everyone should consider the following recommendations:
- Avoid long or intense outdoor activities
- Close your windows and doors
- Run A/C on recirculate
- Use an air purifier and use a high-quality air filter in your HVAC system
- Wear an N95 mask if you must be outside, especially those with existing medical conditions
- Check on your friends, family, and neighbors, especially older adults, and pregnant people, to ensure their safety.
Mental Health & Outdoor Air Pollution
Mental health can be worsened by impaired air quality. Studies show when prolonged exposure impacts the brain, it can lead to depression and other mental health disorders.
Past research has associated air pollution with higher levels of stress, psychological distress, increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's, and depression. Other research has linked short-term exposure to peaks in air pollution with an increased risk of death among people with serious mental illness. For more information, visit American Psychiatric Association.
Lack of Healthcare & Outdoor Air Pollution
Often those that lack healthcare will not seek care after developing illness symptoms from exposure to impaired air quality.