SAN FRANCISCO -- Saturday was the fourth consecutive day when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) declared a "Spare the Air Day."
The air quality was slightly better than previous days. However, there was still an elevated amount of particulate matter -- enough to declare another "Spare the Air Day," according to BAAQMD spokesperson Juan Romero.
"Over the last several days we've been dealing with wildfire smoke impacts from fires going on in Northern California and Southern Oregon. That's been transporting smoke into the region," Romero said.
Of the ten "Spare the Air" days they've declared this year, four of them happened this week.
"The purpose of a Spare the Air Day is to alert the public that the air quality is forecast to be unhealthy so that the public can take measures to protect themselves during these events," Romero said. "Poor air quality can affect everyone. Over time, the longer you're in it the worse the effects can be."
Much of the Bay Area started the day with AQI readings of moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups, according to data from Airnow.gov. Those numbers are just below a key threshold reading for Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at UCSF.
"Being in a polluted area above an AQI of about 100 is the equivalent of either smoking a half-pack or full-pack of cigarettes a day even if you don't smoke. That should give you an idea of the longterm risks over time," he said.
He said multiple days in a row has somewhat of a compounding effect, as people's bodies aren't given a chance to reset.
"Over the season, this can have an impact," he said. "But over four days, probably not more than the acute effects -- asthma exacerbation, COPD exacerbation that may drive some people to the hospital."
Romero said the BAAQMD will be monitoring the situation closely through the weekend but, at this point, he doesn't anticipate another Spare the Air Day coming.
"It looks like we just have this last little bit of smoke plume that is making its way through the Bay Area," he said. "So, we're expecting some elevated particulate matter for the afternoon but then things are going to start clearing out. Tomorrow it's looking good."
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