September 19, 2021
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Poor air quality in Sonoma County

  • Wednesday was a dark day in Sonoma County. The closest we got to seeing a sunrise was reminiscent of the sky during the Tubbs Fire of 2017. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
September 18, 2020

Last week Sonoma County woke to a blood sky. It was red at dawn, shifting to orange as the day wore on, but the sun never rose, not really. The horizon stood as an ominous reminder of the consequences of climate change and the precarious position in which our two cities sit, waiting for the next wildfire to sweep us from our homes. 

Some might have noticed the air that day was pleasant. The breeze didn’t choke, though it was a bit cold, and if it weren’t for the foreboding tint, one could be forgiven for thinking the fires not a threat. 

That was thanks to a coastal fog belt which kept most of the smoke suspended above Sonoma County. We breathed clean air as the fog belt carried the worst of the smoke out to sea. 

That changed the next morning, and the morning after that and the morning after that. For the last week the air quality has rarely dropped below an AQI of 150, the minimum considered unhealthy and for most of the time it’s been significantly higher. This is a threat for those among us who suffer from lung conditions, like asthma or tuberculosis. The fine particles in the smoke can irritate the lungs, leading to a sore throat, a dry cough, or headaches. The more vulnerable you are, or the higher the AQI, the worse your symptoms. 

But by far the greatest danger of smoke inhalation is to your heart, according to the University of California San Francisco. The inflammation in the lungs can lead to blood clots, which means heart attacks. 

Worse still, according the CDC, the long-term effects of smoke inhalation aren’t fully understood.  

So! What can we do to protect ourselves? 

Well, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services recommends minimizing exposure and to stay indoors. HEPA filters are also an option, but really any building or car with decent air-conditioning will keep most of the particles out of your lungs, as long as the windows are closed. If you gave to go outside, then bring an N-95 mask. If it’s good enough to filter Covid-19 then it can handle some stray ash.

It’s scary out there. Between Covid-19 and fires and protests, we live in uncertain times and it’s days like these when we need our neighbors the most. We at the Community Voice want you to know that we care. We’re here for you. It’s our home too. 

Stay safe out there, Rohnert Park and Cotati.