West Coast Air Quality: Why you need to check it like you check Instagram.



Within the past month here in Portland, Oregon, we experienced a two-week stretch with the worst air quality in the world. A crown no one is honored to bare. Air Quality Index (AQI) is a system that ranks air quality. AQI scales are ranked as such:


0-50: Good: Air has no threat.


51-100: Moderate: Sensitive individuals should avoid outdoor activity.


101-150: Unhealthy for sensitive groups – general public and sensitive individuals in particular are at risk to experience respiratory symptoms and irritation.


151—200: Unhealthy: Increased likelihood of adverse effects, and aggravation to the heart and lungs amongst general public.


201-300: Very Unhealthy: General public will be noticeably affected.


301-500: Hazardous: General public is at high risk to experience strong irritations and adverse health reactions.


Air quality readings in places such as Cottage Grove, OR have exceeded 807, and with most scales maxing out at 500, its actually hard to say what the readings truly are. But the products of these fires aren’t just burning trees and brush, they are TOXIC fumes from burning cars, electronics, insulation and paint, etc. These particles get suspended in the air and depending upon the size, they are extremely dangerous if they are small enough because the body does not have the ability to filter them out (PM 2.5). Particulate matter of size 2.5 microns and below does not get filtered by your body’s defense barriers such as cilia (nose hairs) for example. They can thus get immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and/or accumulate in the lungs and cause plaque deposition in arteries, where they do not have a way out.


Particles that are PM 2.5 or below are what make the air hazy. This can lead to high levels of inflammation and lead to cardiac and respiratory fatal conditions. We know that COVID attacks the anti-inflammatory system of certain organs (many actually), so at this level of hazard, with levels exceeding any previous data AND the pandemic, everyone needs to take the air and the virus extremely seriously. There are various apps that enable easily interpreted graphs; one feature with the AQI app shows the kind of mask required to go outside and is very user friendly. So quite simply, if you live on the west coast, having user friendly way to check air quality is now imperative for health.




Dr. Noe King