Mitigating the haze during the fires in Colorado

4 September 2018

Tamera Twitty

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   Colorado Springs is experiencing a significant amount of haze from a combination of the various wildfires burning in the state, and ozone created by pollution. Several air quality advisories were put in place in the area this summer alone. The result is a heightened risk for respiratory complications.

    The Spring Creek fire burned over 108,000 acres near Fort Garland, becoming the third largest fire in state history based on data provided by the National Weather Coordinating Group’s InciWeb tool. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that due to the to common air pollution and the smoke from the fires, the air quality is not likely to improve soon.

    The smoke from fires alone would create challenges for UCCS students, but ozone levels are bound to further exacerbate the issue. Ozone is emitted into the air when pollutants react to sunlight. This chemical polluter is common, but can result in health complications when present in excess. The two factors working on concert have resulted in several air quality warnings in August alone.

    Symptoms of poor air inhalation can be as minor as coughing and throat irritation, and as serious as chest tightness, shortness of breath, and wheezing. The haze can also irritate existing conditions and allergies.

    UCCS students have been exposed to the haze while on campus even in the semester’s first weeks. Particularly students are most vulnerable to haze while walking on campus, leaving them possibly susceptible to these symptoms. The CDPHE suggests that during these high ozone and smoke days, people avoid outdoor activities which can be problematic on such a large outdoor campus, making it nearly impossible to avoid haze between classes.

    If students experience symptoms of haze inhalation, they are advised to visit the Wellness Center or their personal physician for examination. This is especially suggested for students who have asthma or other conditions that disable lung function.

    Olivia Vogts, an undecided freshman, says that the poor air quality has made a difference in her breathing and vision.

    “I cannot say that definitively that poor air quality is the cause, but my eyesight has been blurry especially on hazy days,” said Vogts. “I know that the smog affects my allergies and can make it harder for me to breathe clearly.”

    In response to air quality concerns, the American Lung Association released a top ten list of how to avoid haze inhalation, two of which were very applicable to students on college campuses. First, students can check the air forecast in Colorado Springs daily to prepare for air quality issues. Also, avoiding outdoor exercise during high pollution days can reduce risk of inhalation symptoms.

    With rising air quality concerns in the area, staying informed and protected can make a huge difference.