Friday, June 29, 2012

Air Quality Criterion

As USA Ultimate's US Open games remain uncertain due to the Colorado fires, the smoke - specifically particulate matter - impacts the area's air quality. Air quality is an important criterion for determining playability.

First & foremost: Inhaling smoke is not good for anyone, even healthy people.

Dust masks do not filter out the particles and gases in wildfire smoke.

What are the known chemical components of smoke from wildfires? [Colorado Wildfire Info]
  • Particulate matter - coarse visible and fine invisible particles including soot and ash that can reach deep into the lungs and may contain irritating and cancer-causing compounds.
  • Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons - a class of organic compounds found on the particulate matter from forest fires, wood stoves, and fireplaces, some of which may be carcinogenic with extended exposure.
  • Carbon monoxide - a colorless, odorless, toxic gas produced in highest amounts from smoldering forest fires. Firefighters working near the fire are at greatest risk for high doses of carbon monoxide. Areas even a few hundred yards downwind of the fire experiencing high particulate smoke levels typically do not have high levels of carbon monoxide. Signs of high carbon monoxide levels in the blood include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and decreased mental functioning.
  • Aldehydes - compounds that are extremely irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes of the mouth and nose. Some like formaldehyde are carcinogenic, while others like acrolein can injure lung tissue.
  • Volatile organic compounds - strong irritants, some of which are carcinogenic.
  • And many other chemical components...

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