Advisory Issued Regarding Smoke and Ash from Wildfires

The New Mexico Tech community is advised to take special precautions regarding smoke and ash from several wildfires burning in Arizona and parts of New Mexico that continue to affect air quality in the state.

An official advisory issued by the N.M. Dept. of Health advocates that “sensitive groups, such as the elderly, small children or any individuals with respiratory or heart problems, leave the area where smoke levels are high, until the smoke dissipates; or stay inside as much as possible.”
Individuals with chronic respiratory or heart disease also are urged not to use swamp coolers, which pull smoke inside.

“Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and intensify chronic heart and lung problems, and people with heart disease may experience chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath or fatigue,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Catherine Torres, in the advisory.

“If there is smoke nearby, remain indoors and close doors and windows to limit smoke inhalation,” she said. “Also be sure you have the medicines needed for your chronic heart or lung problems.”

The Department of Health recommends using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on air conditioners to reduce breathing problems. A HEPA filter may reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air.

When smoke levels are high, residents are cautioned not to use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves; and to avoid vacuuming, which stirs up particles already inside the home.

The Air Quality Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department operates monitors at multiple locations statewide to gather information about air quality conditions, and to keep the public informed.

In areas without air quality monitoring equipment, visibility can serve as a good substitute in determining air quality. The following chart includes guidelines for determining air quality from visibility:

Visibility Category Visibility in Miles
Good 10 miles and up
Moderate 6 to 9
Unhealthy for Sensitive People 3 to 5
Unhealthy 1 1/2 to 2 1/2
Very Unhealthy 1 to 1 1/4
Hazardous 3/4 mile or less

For further information about health effects related to smoke from wildfires, go online to http://nmhealth.org/eheb/index.shtml. For more information about fires in New Mexico go online to http://nmfireinfo.wordpress.com.

– NMT –
(Valerie Kimble)