Bay Area suffers 6th consecutive day of unhealthy air quality readings

A curtain of smoke hovered over the entire Bay Area again Monday. It was rated unhealthy in the North Bay and East Bay, particularly in Pleasanton and Livermore. 

The air was better than Sunday where it was rated hazardous in some places.  

But Monday marked the sixth consecutive day of unhealthy air.

The Spare the Air alert has been extended at least until Wednesday.

"The longer you are exposed to this, the more it is stressing the body. And the more problems we can expect to see," said Dr. Ronn Berrol, head of emergency at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland. He says the effects of breathing too much smoke can take weeks to appear.

"It takes a toll on the most vulnerable, older people, younger people, those who haven't developed immune systems, we're talking young babies. Those with chronic medical conditions," he said.

At Hayward Hardware owner Jim Wieder says there has been a run on smoke-related items and he's having little success replacing them.

"It's unprecedented that we wouldn't have access to these everyday items that we've had access to in the 15 years I've done this," he said. The store sold out of respirators in days, air filtration systems, popular because of COVID, are also out of stock.

"I call and ask someone for an N-95 mask the answer is no. The answer is 'hell no.' We don't have it," Wieder said.

Much of the problem is the timing of the current fires. Traditionally fires have come more in the fall when supply can usually meet demand.

"No one predicted this that we would be needing them for fires as early as mid-August or late August. We're completely and totally unprepared," he said.

Doctors say the cloth and surgical masks aren't effective in filtering smoke.

But they do urge people to wear them in public because of COVID.

"You are going to see more people coughing which means they are going to be putting more of their saliva and droplets into the air. And that just speaks to why it's more important to be masking," said Berrol.

The Bay Area record for most consecutive unhealthy air days is 14. That was due to the Camp Fire in 2018.