OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - The Bay Area Air Quality Management District says a new record is being set for the longest stretch of Spare the Air Alerts as smoky air from the Bay Area wildfires continues to spread particulate matter across the region at levels exceeding federal health standards.
BAAQMD spokesman Aaron Richardson says Tuesday marks 15 consecutive days of alerts.
"That's one more day than we issued in 2018 with the Camp Fire so this is kind of our new record for Spare the Air Alerts in a row," said Richardson, noting that higher temperatures later in the week might prolong the situation, "It's very likely we'll continue to extend the Spare the Air alert throughout the week."
Richardson said most of the smoky air Tuesday was in the North Bay and peninsula, but conditions change with every shift of the wind.
"Our house does smell like smoke and my husband insists that we close the windows instead of letting in the cooler air," said Glenda Horsley of Marin County.
'You can still smell it now, so now I've got my N95 mask on to keep the smoke out as well," said Debbie Polito, a Kensington resident who was out for a walk wearing a mask.
"As these conditions fluctuate from hour to hour and as the weather patterns change, some areas may experience peak areas of air pollution and then it may subside as the day goes on," said Richardson.
"It's been ebb and flow all the time. As the day goes on, it comes and goes," said John Heenan of Marin County.
Experts say the smoky air can affect even healthy people, as they breathe particles.
"Our lungs evolved so they're pretty good at getting rid of bigger pieces, but this is kind of like inhaling asbestos," said Trumbull, "The impacts of air pollution are long-term."
Terry Trumbull is the environmental chair at the non-profit Breathe California, which works to improve lung health in communities. Trumbull says the pollution levels could be worse. He says that the pandemic has led to many people staying indoors and working from home, reducing people's exposure and the level of emissions from commuters.
"Everybody's not driving," said Trumbull, "70% of our bad air normally in the summer comes from cars."
For those with asthma, advocates say make sure you have an inhaler, limit time outdoors, and try to keep smoke from entering your house.
"Doing what you can even if it's putting a towel under the door to block out some of that can make a huge difference," said
Audrey Abadilla, a manager of community advocacy for Breathe California and a Bay Area resident who is struggling with asthma herself.
Websites such as Purpleair.com post real-time data from their air quality sensors throughout the region.
The Bay Area Air Quality District says the Purple Air sensors are useful, but Richardson notes those can be less accurate than the Bay Area District's sensors. That's why the district has posted a map on the district's website that combines both data sets so you can look up conditions in your neighborhood: https://www.sparetheair.org/understanding-air-quality/air-quality-forecast.
"We're really one big air basin, so we're really looking at if any one part of the Bay area is expected to exceed, we will call an alert for the whole Bay Area," said Richardson.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana