Updated: Yesterday's dust storm air quality data
Update: Wednesday, October 3, 2018: Yesterday's dust storm resulted in a maximum 24-hour average PM10 (Particulate Matter 10 microns in diameter and smaller) of 171.9 micrograms/cubic meter of air. This is over the health-based standard of 150 micrograms/cubic meter of air or 100 on the Air Quality Index (AQI). This 171.9 concentration equates to a daily AQI of 109/Unhealthy for sensitive groups.
The peak one-hour concentration on Tuesday was 891 micrograms/cubic meter of air, which occurred at 5 p.m.
The chart below illustrates how a dust storm can cause a significant, short-term "spike" in our air quality. The screen shot is hourly PM10 concentrations from our Augusta/Fiske monitoring location:
As of 4:35 pm, Tuesday, October 2, 2018: Spokane's air quality is unhealthy/red on the Air Quality Index (AQI), due to blowing dust coming mainly from the Columbia Basin area. The winds are expected to taper off late this evening.
Meanwhile, here are some tips from the Washington State Department of Ecology:
OLYMPIA – It’s dust storm season when wind speeds pick up and the air can turn gritty with dirt particles from dry farming areas, construction sites, and unpaved roads. When inhaled, dust particles settle deeply into lungs and can irritate or damage sensitive tissues in the respiratory system. People with respiratory illnesses, the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone engaged in strenuous physical activity outdoors are most at risk.
After a windstorm, fine dust remains suspended in the air or is kicked up by vehicles. In some low-lying areas where the air is stagnant, particles may settle out of the air slowly. Sensitive people who want to prepare for dust storms should pay attention to local weather forecasts and check with their doctors. Drive more slowly to reduce airborne dust and postpone projects at home that stir up dust when conditions are dusty.
Here’s how you can protect yourself and your family during a dust storm:
Stay indoors as much as possible.
A mask designed to block small particles may provide some protection for some adults. Information below added from other sources:
Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 provide some protection. This type of mask can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies.
Place the mask over your nose and under your chin, with one strap placed below the ears and one strap above. Adjust the mask so that air cannot get through at the edges.
- Choose an N95 or N100 mask that has two straps that go around your head. Don’t choose a one-strap paper dust mask or a surgical mask that hooks around your ears – these don’t protect you against the fine particles in smoke.
- Choose a size that will fit over your nose and under your chin. It should seal tightly to your face. These masks don’t come in sizes that fit young children.
- Don’t use bandanas or towels (wet or dry) or tissue held over the mouth and nose. These may relieve dryness but they won’t protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.
- Anyone with lung or heart disease, or who is chronically ill, should check with their medical provider before using any mask. Using respirator masks can make it harder to breathe, which may make existing medical conditions worse. The extra effort it takes to breathe through a respirator mask can make it uncomfortable to use them for very long. These masks should be used mostly by people who have to go outdoors.
- Respirator masks shouldn't be used on young children – they don’t seal well enough to provide protection. They also don’t seal well on people with beards.
- Pinch the metal part of the mask tightly over the top of your nose.
- The mask fits best on clean shaven skin.
- Throw away your mask when it gets harder to breathe through, if it gets damaged, or if the inside gets dirty. Use a new mask each day if you can.
- It is harder to breathe through a mask, so take breaks often if you work outside.
- If you feel dizzy or nauseated, go to a less smoky area, take off your mask and get medical help if you don’t feel better.
Watch for sudden changes in visibility while driving.
Avoid driving during windy conditions when windblown dust is likely.
Turn on headlights as a safety precaution.
Construction project managers can take a variety of steps to control dust stirred up at work sites. Control measures include:
- Clearing no more land than necessary.
Working in phases to minimize the amount of exposed land area.
Using a commercial dust suppressant to replace or reduce the use of water.
Covering bare ground with gravel.
Curtailing activities on windy days.