The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has issued a statewide Air Quality Action Day (AQAD) for today and tomorrow, July 21-22. IDEM is forecasting high levels of fine particles (PM2.5) in the air due to smoke from wildfires in the western United States and southern Canada. IDEM said this is a unique widespread event.
IDEM says fine particulate matter is known as PM2.5 because it refers to microscopic dust, soot, liquid droplets and smoke particles that are 2.5 micrometers wide or smaller. To put that into perspective, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter, or about thirty times larger than the largest fine particle.
IDEM encourages everyone to help reduce PM2.5 while remaining safe during the COVID-19 health crisis by making changes to daily habits. You can:
• Reduce activity time outdoors to reduce unhealthy exposure to PM2.5 and avoid exercising near busy roads.
• Avoid burning wood and any other unnecessary fires.
o Reminder: Indiana’s open burning laws make it illegal to burn trash and generally prohibit open burning, visit IN.gov/openburning for more information.
• Combine errands into one trip.
• Avoid using gasoline-powered equipment or gas-powered recreational vehicles.
• Keep your engine tuned, and don’t let your engine idle (e.g., at a bank or restaurant drive-thru).
• Conserve energy by turning off lights or setting the thermostat to 75 degrees or higher.
PM2.5 is composed of microscopic dust, soot, and liquid that settles deep into the lungs and cannot be easily exhaled. Those people at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high PM2.5 exposure.
IDEM examines weather patterns and PM2.5 readings to make daily air quality forecasts. Air Quality Action Days generally occur when weather conditions such as light winds, higher humidity, and lower atmospheric inversions trap pollutants close to the ground, or when winds transport smoke to the area. In the Northwest Indiana region, there are PM2.5 air monitors in Lake and Porter counties. To learn more about PM2.5 or sign up for air quality alerts, visit SmogWatch.IN.gov . To learn more about how smoke from fires can affect your health, visit www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/how-smoke-fires-can-affect-your-health .