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posted on August 13, 2012 08:44

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a Stage 1 Air Quality Advisory that prohibits all open burning. The mandatory burn ban is in effect for Ada, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington counties in southwest Idaho, and Lemhi and Custer counties in central Idaho.

St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center will have a physician available for media interviews today, Monday, August 13th. Please contact Director of Public Relations Elizabeth Duncan at 367-8121 for information.

Poor air quality due to smoke from western wildfires plagued parts of Idaho over the weekend and is forecast to continue; DEQ projects the air quality to remain unhealthy for sensitive groups on Tuesday. There is concern that the cumulative impact of continued poor air quality during the week could cause serious health problems for people with chronic health conditions such as respiratory or heart conditions.

Most areas of the state do not have air quality monitors, so people are encouraged to be cautious if visibility is affected by smoke and particulates from wildfires.  If visibility is reduced to less than eight miles, sensitive groups should limit activity. If visibility is reduced to less than three miles, air quality is considered unhealthy for everyone and people should avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors. 

People exposed to smoke may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Older adults, infants, children and people with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease are more affected. People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand. People are advised to seek medical treatment for uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or if breathing difficulty continues once they are indoors.

To reduce their exposure to smoke and protect their health, public health officials advise:

  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps dilute phlegm in the respiratory tract making it easier to cough smoke particles out. Plan on coughing, it is nature’s way of clearing your lungs. Avoid caffeine products, sugary drinks and alcohol because they have a dehydrating effect.
  • Stay cool if the weather is warm. Run your air conditioner to re-circulate air. Turn the fan blower on manually so it continuously filters the air in your home.

  • Use portable air purifiers to remove particles in the air in homes without a central heating and/or cooling system. Air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are best; avoid using air purifiers that produce ozone. Visit areas in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library.

  • Exercise indoors if possible.

  • If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.

Daily updates on air quality conditions at various locations in Idaho are available on DEQ's Air Quality Reports and Forecasts webpage. For areas where air quality monitors are not available, the Visibility Range and AQI Table can help determine the necessary precautions to take.

For more information on how to protect against wildfire smoke, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wildfires Factsheet.  Information on the fires in your area is available on