Microscopic particles make up the dirty air blanketing the Front Range

Health

DENVER (KDVR) — Smoke and haze continue to fill the skies in parts of Colorado, with the majority of the smoke coming from the wildfires on the west coast.

The Problem Solvers took a deeper look into what makes up the smoke that sits in the sky.

Dr. Todd Bull, a pulmonologist with UCHealth and the director of University of Colorado Hospital’s Comprehensive Lung and Breathing Program, said particulate matter from the fire travels in the atmosphere. The particles are so small they are unable to be seen by the human eye. But all together, they create the haze in the sky.

“Most Coloradans have sat around a camp fire, and when that smoke shifts towards you, that’s what your experiencing,” Bull said.

He said the particles are inhaled and can travel into your lungs/respiratory system and, in some cases, into your blood stream.

“They are very small, around 2.5 microns, which is smaller than a human hair,” Bull said.

Frank Flocke, a scientist at the National Center Atmospheric Research, said that if you look at a fire plume, you can see the particles. But to help fix the problem, he said humans need to reduce carbon emissions.

“It might be the new normal in the West. You wonder if there is anything left to burn. But the whole West is very dry,” Flocke said.

Bull and Flocke cautioned people who are sensitive to the air quality to be cautious about going outside. Those are people who may have asthma, underlying heart or lung disease or those young or older individuals. Flocke said even just opening a front door when the air quality is this bad can be hard on sensitive groups.

Bull said even people who are healthy need to be cautious with this air quality.

“We see an increase in our ER visits when air pollution spikes like this,” Bull said.

Unfortunately, some groups of people have jobs or obligations that give them no choice but to work outside. Quinton Hudson, who owns Lawn Care Ninja, said he’s just had to push through with the smoke.

“It’s more and more difficult to get out there and breathe, and you are exhausting yourself trying to catch your breath,” Hudson said.

But he said he will continue to work because he loves what he does and loves to be outside, and he’s looking forward to seeing Colorado’s beautiful blue skies again soon.

“Its my livelihood so you have to keep doing it and just deal with it,” Hudson said.

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