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State health officials warn of dangers from wildfire smoke

The warm summer weather calls Washingtonians outdoors for hiking, biking or simply relaxing. It’s also the time when smoke from wildfires can make outdoor air a health risk to some people.

Several large fires in Eastern Washington have been causing poor air quality in surrounding areas. When the air people breathe contains fine ash, soot, gases and other irritants, it gets into the lungs and can cause problems, especially for people with breathing or heart conditions.

“People who have conditions like asthma, bronchitis and heart disease can develop serious health problems when they breathe polluted air,” said Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy.

“It’s important that they pay attention to air quality reports and protect themselves from smoky or smoggy air,” Lofy added.

Older adults are at risk and are often unaware they have underlying health conditions that can be aggravated by poor air quality. Lofy explained that youngsters are also at risk because their lungs and airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults - putting them at higher risk. And kids often spend more time outside, she said.

Lofy said when air pollution is high, outdoor activity should be limited to less strenuous exercise. She said everyone can lower their exposure to air pollution by checking air quality conditions before heading outdoors.

More tips for reducing exposure to air pollution, as well as health information can be found on the Department of Health website (www.doh.wa.gov).

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