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Local experts address air quality concerns in Southern Colorado

Local experts address air quality concerns in Southern Colorado
Posted at 7:33 PM, May 09, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — Dust, hazy skies and a poor air quality index were seen all 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. Plus visibility of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, was low to moderate most of the day.

News5 spoke to Dan Welsh, an air quality meteorologist for CDPHE. He says an advisory was not issued because the numbers PM2.5 and PM10 that caused the air quality index to rise today have returned to moderate and good concentrations.

However, because of active wildfires burning in New Mexico and Arizona, the haze may continue for at least the next several days.

“Some of the haze and kind of gray skies that we are noticing across the southern part of the state may be due to some of the transport of wildfire smoke,” said Welsh. “We may not see clear skies until we get a shift in the winds that are transporting the smoke, or until those fires are not as active. It also appears that there was a blowing dust event overnight last night. I think that that's really contributing to some of the hazy conditions that we're seeing.”

Welsh says they’re still working to confirm the source of the blowing dust. However, the conditions are raising concerns about air quality for some.

“This is affecting a lot of people. You don't have to have allergies and can still be impacted by poor air quality days. So everyone has to be really careful,” said Dr. Nathanael Brady, an allergist at Pikes Peak Allergy & Asthma.

Dr. Brady says the office usually sees more patients around this time of year, but there’s been an even bigger increase this year, especially in the last few weeks.

“I think that because of the extra dry that we've been for the winter season and then now in the spring, we've had minimal rainfall. I think that has caused more issues for more patients,” said Dr. Brady. “More of those patients are here in the office with a unknown diagnosis of asthma allergies or a new onset of symptoms that they are looking for relief for.”

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

“I think it's going to be extra problematic this year just because it's been so dry. We've seen it early, and I think unfortunately it's probably going to be that way through the summer,” said Dr. Brady.

To help alleviate some discomfort, minimize time spent outside, and if you're inside your home or car, keep the windows closed. You can also get in-home air filtration systems or air purifiers, or wear a mask.

Welsh says these are all tips to keep in mind as we're approaching the peak of wildfire activity in Colorado. When asked if the wind, wildfires, haze, and dust we’ve been seeing is normal, he responded:

“That's such a it's a hard question to answer. In the long term, it's not normal. This is not something that we have seen every day, every summer throughout a longer-term history. In the last couple of summers, it has become more commonplace,” said Welsh.

It's also recommended to sign up for alerts of air quality conditions in your area.

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

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