The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) this evening issued a health advisory for sensitive populations because of smoke from agricultural and prescribed burning. Officials said the levels of smoke in the air are expected to be unhealthy for children, older adults and those with asthma, lung disease, other respiratory conditions or heart disease. LLCHD advises those at risk to reduce strenuous physical activity when outdoors, take plenty of breaks and watch for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans, and have quick relief medicine readily available.
Gary Bergstrom, Air Quality Supervisor for the LLCHD, said south winds combined with widespread burning activity in the Flint Hills area of Kansas has resulted in levels of smoke in the air that are unhealthy for sensitive groups. He said the forecast indicates that the impacts to the Lincoln area are likely to subside by Saturday afternoon.
Bergstrom said when the tiny particles and gases in smoke are breathed 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 LLCHD monitors air quality 24 hours a day, and the Air Quality Index (AQI) at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: air) is updated daily hourly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provides an AirNow app for iOS devices. The AQI is now coded orange, which means the air quality is unhealthy for individuals with higher sensitivity to air pollution.
When air quality is unhealthy, those at risk can further protect their health by staying indoors, keeping windows and doors closed, using a HEPA filter, 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.
For more information on LLCHD, visit health.lincoln.ne.gov.