Smoky South Bay air making people sick

first_imgBy Melissa Evans STAFF WRITER The thick, dirty plume of air choking South Bay skies has sent more people to the emergency room for respiratory problems and prompted strenuous warnings from health officials Wednesday. Even healthy people without chronic conditions are at risk for asthmatic episodes, allergies, eye irritation and lung damage because the particles in the air caused by smoke are too small to be filtered by the body, doctors say. Children at most public schools have been kept indoors and restricted from exercise this week. State health officials called a press conference Wednesday to issue warnings to the public that outdoor and indoor physical activity should be restricted until further notice. “Even adults who are healthy ought to take it easy and stay in an air-conditioned location,” said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board. The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which monitors pollutants in the South Bay and Harbor Area, also issued a warning Wednesday. The closest readings, taken in Long Beach, showed unhealthy levels of contaminants in the air most of the day, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the agency. The microscopic particles clogging the air have even reached significant levels inside homes, he said, adding that residents are advised to keep windows shut and use fans or air conditioning. The poor conditions are the result of a “perfect storm” of external pollutants, said Dr. Edward Bold, a pulmonologist from Torrance Memorial. The ash and smoke from the fires are irritating the sinuses, while the hot air from the Santa Ana winds is drying out the lungs. Because of rapidly changing weather patterns, this is typically the time of year when respiratory problems become more prevalent anyway, Bold said. “People need to be sure that they’re taking all of their inhalers with them when they go outside,” he said. Even if the fires are extinguished quickly, the orange sunrise and gray skies may be around for at least another week in the coastal areas because of wind patterns, Atwood said. The Santa Ana winds have blown the smoky air from the fires west, but eventually the ocean breeze will push it back inland. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, based in Los Angeles, was flooded with calls Wednesday, said Francene Lifson, executive director. “We are feeling the effects,” she said. “Watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, headaches, everything.” Several workers there who suffer from asthma and allergies had to call in sick because conditions were so bad, she added. [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.“It’s a bad situation out there,” said Dr. Lee Weiss, who oversees emergency medical services at Centinela Freeman Medical Center. Weiss estimates the Inglewood hospital has seen about a 20 percent spike in respiratory-related emergency visits since Sunday, when fires began ravaging Southern California. Doctors at Torrance Memorial Medical Center and Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance have also received more calls and visits from patients, particularly the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. The harbor areas of San Pedro, Wilmington, and Long Beach were especially vulnerable because of wind patterns and warm temperatures, which are keeping the polluted air stagnant. “It’s not going to cause cancer or anything,” said Dr. David Campisi, a San Pedro pulmonologist, when asked about the danger. “But it certainly is going to be irritating to anybody.” last_img read more