VENTURA (CBSLA) — With two large brush fires burning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, air quality was visibly bad Tuesday, even with strong winds blowing much of the smoke out onto the ocean.
Our radar picking up smoke from the #ThomasFire – poor air quality… blaze has now burned 45,000 acres with zero containment #CBSLA
A large bank of smoke from the Thomas Fire was visible from SKY2 over Ventura, Santa Paula and Ojai. The strong winds that are pushing flames west are similarly scattering plumes of gray smoke out over the region.
Further inland, the Creek Fire burning over Sylmar is giving an apocalyptic hue to the morning commute along the 5 Freeway.
Horrible air quality in the valley this morning due to the #creekfire as viewed from Mulholland Drive. Most of the valley can’t be seen from up here. @CBSLA
Further inland, the Creek Fire burning over Sylmar is giving an apocalyptic hue to the morning commute along the 5 Freeway.
A smoke advisory issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District says that wind-blown smoke is making the air most hazardous in the San Fernando Valley and Malibu areas. The agency says everyone in these areas should avoid vigorous outdoor or indoor exercise, and people with respiratory or heart disease, pregnant women, seniors, and children were urged to remain indoors.
More than 50 miles away, officials from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District said that even though classes are in session, students are being kept indoors due to smoky conditions.
“School is in session; however, we will be running on an indoor schedule today, including for physical education, lunch and recess,” a statement from Superintendent Ben Drati posted on the district’s website said.
The Thomas Fire also forced the Getty Center to close to the public “to protect collections from smoke from fires in the region,” according to Getty officials. The Villa in Pacific Palisades is also closed, per its usual Tuesday schedule.
Southern California is enduring its second day of destructive Santa Ana winds that are being blamed for whipping up flames from both brush fires and sending embers beyond fire lines to start new fires.
Red Flag warnings, signifying the risk of wildfires, remain in effect across most of Los Angeles County and down south into Orange County. Tuesday’s warnings are scheduled to expire at 6 p.m., but forecasters say Santa Ana winds could persist into Friday or Saturday.
The gusty winds also have the potential to bring down trees and power lines, and already brought down several big rig trucks along the 210 Freeway in Fontana.
Some modern workplaces have gotten so efficiently air-tight and crowded that they could be making us less productive.That’s partly our colleagues’ fault: Adults breathe out a continuous (yet tiny) stream of CO2, which adds up to around 2 pounds every day.
On the ground outside, carbon dioxide concentrations typically hover between 250 and 500 parts per million, depending on how much pollution is around. Indoors, CO2 concentrations can be a bit higher, though it varies from place to place.
But extra CO2 can have a measurable effect on how well people accomplish cognitively high-level tasks at work.
A recent study by researchers from Harvard, SUNY and Syracuse suggests that when people breathe in too much carbon dioxide at their desks, their performance suffers. That jives with what brain researchers know about carbon dioxide: more CO2 causes brain metabolism to plummet and neural activity to take a dive.
That study got the science team at Business Insider wondering how much CO2 is in the air we’re breathing at work. So we conducted a test in our office to determine whether we, too, are being impacted by elevated carbon dioxide levels.
Fortunately, those results also turned out to be out well below worrisome CO2 levels.
But we weren’t satisfied with a single result. So we headed into the middle of the crowded newsroom for a second test.
Our test involved sucking air into a syringe and then pushing it out into a CO2-measuring vile built for greenhouses. As it turned out, our conference room air was performance-friendly.
First we tested the CO2 concentrations in a conference room.
Ultimately, designers and architects adopted new building ventilation standards to make sure that there’s enough fresh air indoors.
Indoor carbon dioxide became a problem in the 1970s, when designers began making buildings more airtight. People started reporting feeling ill and less productive at work. The term ‘sick building syndrome’ was born.
In the study, 24 workers spent six days working at different CO2 concentrations. The participants were plucked from a range of professions, including engineers, marketers and programmers. The results from the small group suggested that even a slightly elevated CO2 level can have an impact on how well people work.
Even if you don’t live or work near a major fire, you can still be affected by smoke particles in the air. So, what’s in that smoke, and how much should you worry about it?
Depending on the fire, the smoke can be made up of various substances including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapor, particulate matter, organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides and more. Exposure to smoke can cause a range of health effects, from eye and lung irritation to asthma and premature death.
Particulate matter is the main public health threat during short-term exposure to wildfire smoke, so it’s crucial to protect yourself.
“Really it’s about common sense,” said Philip Fine of the South Coast Air Quality Management District on AirTalk Thursday. “If you can see the smoke, if you can smell the smoke, you can tell when the particulate matter levels are really high. If you can do that, you should exercise caution.”
Here are tips on how to stay safe if you’re in the patch of a wildfire from the AQMD and the Air Resources Board:
What should I do if I’m in an area affected by smoke?
Stay indoors; close all doors and windows. Everyone should avoid vigorous outdoor and indoor activity. Those with respiratory difficulties or heart problems, as well as the elderly and young children should all remain indoors. Keep windows closed and run your air conditioner if possible. Running an indoor air filter is effective in helping reduce the amount of polluted air inside the home. Do not use any indoor or outdoor wood-burning appliances or fireplaces. When smoke subsides, you should air out your home to clear any polluted air that might be trapped inside.
What if I don’t have air conditioning, and it’s too hot to stay inside?
Heat can be dangerous to anyone, but especially the elderly and very young. If you rely on open windows and doors for cooling, AQMD recommends you stay with friends or family, or head to a clean air shelter.
What if I have to be outside?
The best thing to do is to seek shelter, but if you must be outside, being prepared is key. Wearing a special N95 or P100 respirator mask can help protect you against the fine particles in smoke. Paper or surgical masks are not effective in preventing inhalation of smoke.
Who is the most vulnerable to smoke exposure?
Most healthy people will recover quickly if exposed to smoke, but there’s a large number of people who should take extra precaution. People with asthma and those with cardiovascular or respiratory diseases can experience worsening of their conditions if they inhale smoke. The elderly, young children and pregnant women are all sensitive populations that should avoid exposure. In addition, smokers should beware, because they may not feel symptoms of exposure as acutely as non-smokers.
What if I’m driving through an area affected by smoke?
A car should only be used to leave an area, not as shelter. If you’re in a car, close windows and doors and run your car’s air conditioner, making sure you’re circulating the air already in the car and not pulling in fresh/smoky air. However, according to the AQMD, carbon dioxide levels can spike quickly in newer cars if vents and windows are closed and the circulation setting is on. It’s a good idea to crack the windows once you’re in there for a while to prevent grogginess.
How do I find out if I’m in an advisory zone?
The AQMD monitors the air 24/7 and offers a handy, interactive map of air quality in Southern California. You can check the air quality in your area at any time via their website. They will also post information there if there’s a special advisory because of a wildfire or other event. You can also sign up for advisory alerts here.
New research suggests the best way to minimize your pollution exposure on the commute to and from work is to crank the air conditioning in your vehicle.
Most Americans spend almost an hour traveling to and from work each day. And it is during the commute that people experience the majority of their daily exposure to contaminants.s
To determine how drivers and passengers might mitigate their exposure risks, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis tested what effects the car ventilation system has on passing pollutants.
Scientists tested different combinations and fan and air conditioning settings and monitored contaminant concentrations using portable sensors. A dashboard camera allowed scientists to determine how outside variables — a restaurant exhaust system or a passing diesel truck — impacted exposure.
“As aerosol scientists, we had access to state-of-the-art air monitoring equipment,” Nathan Reed, a doctoral candidate at WUSTL, said in a news release. “Once we began measuring inside and outside of the car, and started getting numbers back, we were able to confirm our hypothesis that by controlling our car’s ventilation we could mitigate some pollutant risk.”
Researchers found that using air conditioning reduced the amounts of the pollutants inside the vehicle by 20 to 34 percent. While the fan and AC both pull air from the outside, the air conditioning system sees air passed across a cold evaporator.
“This cold surface attracts the pollutant particles, and they deposit there, as opposed to diffusing it into the air you’re breathing,” Reed said.
Scientists found the AC was best at minimizing pollution exposure when following a heavy polluter like a bus or big rig.
Of course, using the AC also diminishes a car’s fuel economy, contributing to auto emissions. Scientists recommend deploying the AC only when presented with a high pollution exposure scenario. Once the truck or bus is gone, the driver should role down the windows to allow any buildup of pollutants to dissipate.
Scientists detailed their experiments in a paper published this week in the journal Atmospheric Environment.
Normal black asphalt absorbs 80 to 95 percent of sunlight, but painting road surfaces grey reflects the sun’s rays, helping to cool urban temperatures.
Can a splash of grey pavement paint help combat global warming?
In Los Angeles, where summer temperatures regularly surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), workers are coating streets in special gray treatments in a bid to do just that.
The City of Angels, home to four million people, is the first major city to test the technology.
Normal black asphalt absorbs 80 to 95 percent of sunlight, while the grey “cool pavement” reflects it — dramatically lowering ground temperature and reducing urban street heat, advocates of the method say.
During a demonstration of the technique, Jeff Luzar — sales director at GuardTop, which markets the product — showed how applying the paint could drop street temperatures by about 12 degrees Fahrenheit after just one coat.
Los Angeles is the first city in California to test the treatment on a public road, after initial trials on parking lots, according to Greg Spotts, assistant director of the city’s Bureau of Street Services.
“We’re hoping to inspire other cities to experiment with different ways to reduce the heat island effect,” he said. “And we’re hoping to get manufacturers to come up with some new products.”
“Potentially there could be a huge market for cool pavement products, and in fact, it’s part of a much larger economic trend where solutions for climate change could be the next great investments for the future,” Spotts added.
The city will also monitor how Angelenos react to the newfangled asphalt — and how quickly the notoriously thick LA traffic dirties the grey coating.
George Ban-Weiss, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California, said cool pavements show promise in reducing heat, but “may have some environmental penalties.”
“Recent and current research is working out whether the environmental benefits of cool pavements outweigh those penalties,” Ban-Weiss told AFP.
Still, “the city of Los Angeles is taking the right approach and installing and assessing several cool pavement test sections before committing to widespread adoption,” he said.
Ban-Weiss noted that heat mitigation strategies like planting trees along streets and using cool roofing materials were more “no-brainer” remedies.
Alan Barreca, an environmental science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the pavement cooling technology could be more equitable than current methods like air conditioning.
“Not everyone has the resources to use air conditioning, so there’s concern that some low-income families will suffer,” he said. “That bothers me on a moral dimension. The pavement would provide benefits to everyone.”
“It can protect people who have to be outdoors,” he added.
Plus, he added, “lower temperatures — due to the pavement — mean less reliance on air conditioning. So, that means less greenhouse gases.”