Avoid outdoor activity, unhealthy air quality to last through the weekend

The hazardous air quality conditions have prompted some cities to open respite centers where residents, especially the vulnerable, can go to breathe clean air. However, the smoky conditions are expected to last throughout the weekend. 

You can feel the symptoms of exposure to bad air quality pretty quickly. Experts say it's best to avoid the bad air altogether and to stay indoors. 

The air quality forecast is not good and has suffered for weeks. This week the air quality took a dangerous turn with levels often in the red and purple unhealthy zones for particulate matter. Depending on where you live, those levels are expected through Sunday due to the smoke from wildfires. 

"This is the worst spell of air quality that we've had in the pretty much during this entire duration of this fire season," said Aaron Richardson with Bay Area Air Quality Management District 

A Spare The Air alert is in effect through at least Monday, which will be the record 28th consecutive day for the alert. The previous record in 2018 was 14 days from the Camp Fire. 

Oakland has opened four respite centers through at least Sunday at the following locations: 81st Street Library - 1 to 7 p.m., St. Vincent De Paul 9 to 3 p.m., Dimond Library 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and North Oakland Senior Center 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

San Jose has centers as well, located at Bascom Community Center and Tully Library. They will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 12, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 13. 

San Francisco has listed their "weather relief centers" as follows: Main Branch Library 100 Larking Street. 10 to 8 p.m., Chinatown Library 1135 Powell Street 10 to 5:30 p.m., Mission Bay Branch Library 960 4th Street. 10 to 5:30 p.m., and Southeast Community Facility 1800 Oakdale Avenue 10 to 5:30 p.m. 

For some people, their livelihood depends on being outside. 

"We're just glad that the farmer's markets are actually open to at least give us the option of selling and making money because this is a trying time for small businesses," said Chad Smith, a vendor at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer's Market. 

Experts say you don't want to breathe these pollutants in, especially people with heart and lung disease, older adults, kids and teens. 

You should avoid or limit outdoor time if you can. The particulate matter is extremely dangerous because if you breathe it deeply into your respiratory system, it can enter the bloodstream and cause a variety of health problems, said Richardson. 

The Spare the Air alert could be extended and factors in weather conditions, but that decision won't be made until Monday by the air quality management district.