NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Code Orange Air Quality Alert continues through midnight Thursday for portions of Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky as smoke from wildfires burning out west moves through the U.S.
The large fires burning out west have sent smoke high enough into the atmosphere to be carried thousands of miles east by upper-level winds this week, prompting health alerts as some of the small inhalable particles from the smoke, known as particulates, get closer to the ground.
Dr. Gillian Walshe-Langford, Air Monitoring Manager at the Metro Public Health Department, says these particulates can be very irritating.
“I don’t think it matters particularly what particulate matter it is. It’s going to be really irritating,” Dr. Walshe-Langford said.
Often it’s ozone that is responsible for air quality alerts during the summer months.
“Normally, it’s ozone, as we’ve talked about before, is the problem in Nashville at this time of year. So this is a bit of an exception. We are under a code orange for Pm 2.5 for particulate matter. So the wildfires have sent some smoke our way,” according to Dr. Walshe-Langford.
While healthy adults are not likely to feel much of an impact from the smoke, young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory and heart conditions need to be cautious until the air quality improves. Spending more time indoors until the smoke moves out is recommended.
“People who tend to run a lot in the outdoors probably will notice a difference today. It can affect a lot of people, even people who are not normally sensitive because of the particulate matter in the air today might have a problem. But generally, most people I think will be okay. But if you’re in the sensitive groups, I would advise you don’t exercise heavily today outside; stay indoors.”
Shifting winds and increasing rain chances will take care of much of the smoke in the coming days. In addition to hazy skies, the smoke in the atmosphere will mean redder sunrises and sunsets.