Local Experts Respond to Air Quality Issues in Southern Colorado

COLORADO SPRINGS – Dust, hazy skies and a poor air quality index were seen across southern Colorado on Monday.

Although the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment did not issue an advisory in Colorado Springs on Monday, the air quality index was unhealthy for some. Also, visibility at Pikes Peak, America’s mountain, was low to moderate most of the day.

News5 spoke with Dan Welsh, an air quality meteorologist for the CDPHE. He says no advisories have been issued because the PM2.5 and PM10 numbers that drove the air quality index up today have returned to moderate and good levels.

However, due to active wildfires burning in New Mexico and Arizona, the haze may continue for at least the next few days.

“Some of the haze and type of gray skies we’re seeing in the southern part of the state may be due to some of the wildfire smoke transport,” Welsh said. “We may not see clear skies until we change the winds that carry the smoke, or until these fires are as active. It also looks like there was a blowing dust event last night. I think that really helps with some of the foggy conditions we see.

Welsh says they are still working to confirm the source of the blown dust. However, the conditions raise air quality concerns for some.

“It affects a lot of people. You don’t need to have allergies and you can still be affected by poor air quality days. So everyone has to be very careful,” said Dr. Nathanael Brady, allergist at Pikes Peak Allergy & Asthma.

Dr. Brady says the office typically sees more patients at this time of year, but there has been an even bigger increase this year, especially in recent weeks.

“I think due to the extra dryness that we had in the winter season and now in the spring, we had minimal rainfall. I think that caused more problems for more patients,” said Dr. Brady: “More of these patients are here in the office with an unknown diagnosis of asthmatic allergies or a new onset of symptoms for which they are seeking relief.”

Dr. Brady says smoke and dust are similar to allergy triggers, such as irritated or dry eyes, nasal symptoms like congestion and drainage, a scratchy or scratchy throat, or lower airway problems like coughing, wheezing or chest tightness.

“I think it’s going to be even more problematic this year just because it’s been so dry. We saw it early, and I think unfortunately it will probably be the case through the summer,” Dr. Brady said.

To help relieve some discomfort, minimize time spent outdoors and, if you’re inside your home or car, keep the windows rolled up. You can also get air filtration systems or home air purifiers, or wear a mask.

Welsh says these are all tips to keep in mind as we approach peak wildfire activity in Colorado. When asked if the wind, wildfires, haze and dust we saw were normal, he replied:

“That is such a difficult question to answer. In the long term, this is not normal. It’s not something we’ve seen every day, every summer throughout longer-term history. Over the past two summers it’s become more common,” Welsh said.

It is also recommended that you sign up for alerts about air quality conditions in your area.

Click on here to sign up for air quality alerts from the CDPHE.

Click on here to sign up for air quality alerts from AirNow.

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