SEATTLE — Seattle's air quality is unhealthy for everyone, but especially sensitive groups.
Multiple wildfires in the Cascades caused unhealthy to very unhealthy air quality in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties on Wednesday.
Edwin Staples bikes upwards of 12 miles a day to work, and can’t escape the recent weeks of smoke.
“It doesn't feel any better indoors than it does outdoors. I'm in the federal building and even with the air conditioning and everything it smells like a campfire inside our building,” said Staples.
The unhealthy air quality can cause health symptoms like itchy eyes, sore throat, and headache to more serious symptoms for at-risk groups.
“What we really worry about is people with underlying heart or lung conditions that can worsen those and result in asthma or COPD, exacerbations and potentially aggravating the heart as well,” said Dr. Cora Sack, a pulmonologist at the UW Medicine in the Department of Medicine and Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.
Dr. Sack said older adults, pregnant women, and younger children are also at a higher risk.
“People should limit the amount of time they're doing strenuous activity outdoors,” said Dr. Sack.
To protect students' health, Seattle Public Schools recommended Wednesday that students stay indoors and advised schools to cancel outdoor athletic events and practices.
Doctors are also worried about long-term health impacts on those that can’t come inside.
“We're worried about people who are maybe occupationally exposed to higher levels of smoke like a firefighter who's outdoors fighting wildfire smoke for 12 hours a day for the whole season,” said Dr. Sack.
The smoke also impacted businesses across Puget Sound. Seattle Public Utilities closed its North and South Transfer Stations and South Household Hazardous Waste Facility on Thursday due to poor air quality.
KING 5 Chief Meteorologist Mike Everett said Wednesday’s air quality is the worst it's been in recent weeks, but found a few years in the mid-1980s hit record levels.
“The big change between now and the mid-80s is that we've put a lot of regulations in place to stop pumping chlorofluorocarbons up into the atmosphere with cars and industry, but we're seeing wildfires become more frequent and more dense and see wildfire season lasting longer. There's an intersection taking place where in one way it's better in another way it’s worse,” said Everett.
Some things doctors said you can do to help, are limit your time outdoors, wear a tight-fitting N95 or P100 mask, or use a portable air purifier in your home to keep indoor air clean.
The air quality alert will stay in place until Thursday evening.