Lancaster County residents advised to monitor air quality

LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) -- Lincoln heatlh officials are advising people to keep a close eye on air quality.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department is urging people to monitor for unhealthy levels of smoke.

Favorable burn conditions Tuesday across the Flint Hills region of Kansas and Oklahoma, combined with south winds, that might carry smoke into Lincoln and Lancaster County Tuesday night into Wednesday.

At this time of the year, smoke from agricultural and prescribed burns can cause health issues, especially for children, older adults and those with asthma, lung disease, other respiratory conditions or heart disease. Those at risk are encouraged to check the Air Quality Index before doing any strenuous outdoor activity.

The LLCHD monitors air quality 24 hours a day and the AQI at lincoln.ne.gov is updated hourly. These monitors provide air quality data to help provide health recommendations to Lancaster County residents.

Gary Bergstrom, Air Quality Supervisor for the LLCHD, said when the tiny particles and gases in smoke are inhaled into the lungs, they can cause asthma attacks, worsen chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and cause angina (chest pain) in some people with heart disease.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provides an AirNow smart phone application. The air quality levels are color-coded on the AQI chart:

  • AQI values below 100 (green or yellow) are not expected to cause health problems for the vast majority of people.
  • AQI values between 101 and 150 (orange) indicate that air quality is unhealthy for sensitive individuals. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and have quick relief medicine readily available. Children, older adults and those with heart or lung disease should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion during outdoor activities.
  • AQI values higher than 150 (red, purple and maroon) indicate that air quality is unhealthy for all people. Outdoor activities should be moved indoors or rescheduled to a time when air quality will be better. Children, older adults, and people with asthma or heart or lung disease should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion during outdoor activities. All others should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion during outdoor activities, and take more breaks during outdoor activities.

When air quality is unhealthy, those at risk can further protect their health by staying indoors, keeping windows and doors closed and using the “re-circulate” setting when using a vehicle air conditioner. Those who experience difficulty breathing, coughing, unusual fatigue, heart palpitations, tightness in the chest, or angina should contact a medical care provider.