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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday, September 12, 2020
Meghan Porter, Public Information Supervisor, 360-490-0562, or email Meghan.Porter@co.thurston.wa.us

Air Quality Health Alert in Effect for Thurston County
Health officials recommend residents stay inside and take precautions to protect health

​OLYMPIA – The Thurston County Health Officer is recommending all residents stay indoors and take precautions to protect their health due to very unhealthy air quality conditions from wildfire smoke in the area. Due to this smoke, Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) levels in Thurston County have reached ranges considered “Very Unhealthy for Everyone” to “Hazardous for Everyone”.

People with heart or lung disease, or those who have had a stroke, are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider to determine the best course of action to protect their health during times of hazardous air quality.

When air quality is at unhealthy and hazardous levels, even healthy people may have symptoms which can range from minor irritations to life-threatening complications. Sensitive groups which include children under 18, adults over 65, people that are pregnant, have respiratory illnesses, those who smoke, and those who do not have shelter can have an even higher risk.

Symptoms and complications may include:

  • Throat and sinus irritation
  • Headaches
  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Phlegm
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat 

Dial 911 for emergency assistance if symptoms are serious or life-threatening, such as shortness of breath or chest pain. 

Recommended precautions to protect your health include:

  • Stay indoors
  • Avoid vigorous activity
  • Close windows and doors in your home and keep the indoor air clean (avoid using candles, fireplaces, gas stoves, and vacuuming).
  • If you have an air conditioner, use the “recirculation” switch. If there is no air conditioning and it is too hot to keep windows and doors closed, consider leaving the area.
  • Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) indoor air filter that does not produce ozone, to reduce indoor air pollution.
  • Avoid driving. If you must drive, keep the windows closed. If you use the vehicle’s fan or air conditioning, make sure the system recirculates air from inside; don’t pull air from outside.
  • Schools, daycare providers, and camps or sports groups should keep students indoors and keep activity levels light. See the Air Pollution and School Activities Guidance for more information.
  • Wearing a properly fitted N95 or N100 rated masks may help protect some people from air pollution. Check with your doctor to see if this is appropriate for you. More information here.
  • Check with your healthcare provider for specific questions and concerns. If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 for resources.

If you are living outside, it is recommended you find shelter during times of unhealthy air quality or, if possible, leave the area until air quality returns to normal conditions.

There is a hazardous weather event in effect in Thurston County through Monday, September 14, 2020 due to air quality. Additional shelter and respite options are available. For assistance with finding shelter options in Thurston County, call the Housing Hotline at 1-844-628-7343.

This health alert will remain in place until air quality levels are below the WAQA “Very Unhealthy for Everyone” level. For updates and more information visit https://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/.

Once the health alert is lifted, a health advisory may be placed in effect if air quality levels remain in the “Very Unhealthy for Everyone” or “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” levels.

Local air quality levels can rise and fall rapidly depending on weather factors, including wind direction. Stay informed of current air quality conditions at Washington’s Air Quality Network.

For more information on ways to reduce your exposure to smoky air from wildfires, see the Washington State Department of Health’s Smoke from Fire Tips. For more information on the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) Standards, visit the State of Washington Department of Ecology.


County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3