'Smoke will likely make its way down to the southern Willamette Valley'

Cottage Grove and Roseburg remained at green, or Good. Statewide, only Hermiston had better air quality midday Tuesday than Roseburg. (DEQ)

EUGENE, Ore. - Air quality in Lane County could reach the yellow Moderate or even orange Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups level on Tuesday, the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency cautioned.

MORE | Where is the smoke coming from? Where's the fire? Tracking wildfire pollution in Oregon

"The Portland metro area is seeing heavier smoke impacts from fires in Washington," LRAPA reported Tuesday morning. "That smoke will likely make its way down to the southern Willamette Valley today."

Winds out of the West on Wednesday should help clear smoke from ground level in Lane County, according to LRAPA. But smoke should remain visible in the upper atmosphere through Thursday.

The EPA AirNow website showed degraded air quality across the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday morning, save for over the southern Willamette Valley and parts of the Umpqua Basin.

As of noon, Eugene air quality had entered the yellow Moderate zone.

Cottage Grove and Roseburg remained at green, or Good. Statewide, only Hermiston had better air quality midday Tuesday than Roseburg. Air monitors are not set up in seaside coastal communities.

Air quality in Portland and Salem to the north had spiked into the red Unhealthy zone, the kind of air pollution that has dogged southern Oregon communities like Medford and Grants Pass for much of the past month.

Central Oregon communities of Bend and Redmon had reached Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, as had Baker City in northeastern Oregon. Both La Grande and Pendleton had Unhealthy air quality on par with Portland and Medford.

The pollutant associated with wildfire smoke is called PM 2.5, or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers.

"Particles bigger than 10 micrometers can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat but do not usually reach your lungs. Ten micrometers is about seven times thinner than one human hair," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained.

The fine particulate matter - that PM2.5 measure - is the one to worry about.

"Fine and ultrafine particles are the most concerning because they are most likely to cause health problems," according to the CDC. "Their small size allows them to get into the deep part of your lungs and even into your blood."

The CDC says prolonged exposure to fine particulate matter pollution has been linked to:

increased emergency department visits and hospital stays for breathing and heart problems,

  • breathing problems,
  • asthma symptoms to get worse,
  • adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight,
  • decreased lung growth in children,
  • lung cancer, and
  • early deaths.

According to CDC, the people at the highest risk include:

People with heart or lung diseases because they will feel the effects of particulate matter sooner and at lower ozone levels than less-sensitive people.
Older adults because they may not know they have lung or heart disease. When particle levels are high, older adults are more likely than young adults to have to go to the hospital or die because the exposure to particle pollution has made their heart or lung disease worse.
Children because they are still growing and spend more time at high activity levels. When children come in contact with particle pollution over a long period of time they may have problems as their lungs and airways are developing. This exposure may put them at risk for lowered lung function and other respiratory problems later in life. Children are more likely than adults to have asthma and other respiratory problems that can worsen when particle pollution is high.
Infants because their lungs continue to develop after birth and can be impacted by air pollutants.

Those hazards prompted officials in the Portland area to reconsider outdoor activities.

LRAPA cautioned coaches and youth leaders in Lane County to review safety guidelines.


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