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Fire season air quality updates now available from DEQ

HELENA — Smoke from wildfire activity in Canada has begun to create potentially unhealthy air quality conditions in some portions of Montana. Starting today, the Montana Department of Environmental (DEQ) will be posting smoke updates to keep the public informed about changes to air quality conditions across the state as conditions warrant. These updates are available at www.deq.mt.gov/FireUpdates and will continue during the rest of the wild fire season.

The Wildfire Smoke Update identifies communities in Montana that are experiencing smoke impacts from wildfires. The Today’s Air link on the site also provides a near “real time” map of particulate concentrations for major Montana cities with an easy to use air quality index to help the public understand how various levels of smoke can have an effect on health.

VisibilityAir Quality
13 or more milesGood
13 miles to 9 milesModerate
8 miles to 5 milesUnhealthy for sensitive groups
5 miles to 2 milesUnhealthy
2 miles to 1.3 milesVery Unhealthy
1.3 miles or lessHazardous

State and federal studies have confirmed that particulate matter in smoke can create difficulties for people with heart or lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or congestive heart disease. The elderly are also sensitive to particulate matter exposure. When exposed to particulate matter, children and people with existing lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or vigorously as they normally would, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath.

In areas where air quality is not regularly monitored, visibility can be used to help identify unhealthy smoke levels. Lack of visibility means that even high contrast objects totally disappear.

For more information about air quality conditions you can contact Kristen Martin, Meteorologist, at DEQ’s Air Resources Management Bureau at (406) 444-0283 or by email at kmartin@mt.gov. Questions about the health effects of smoke should be directed to your local county health official or personal health care provider.

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