PORTLAND, OR - A new report from Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality shows unhealthy air quality from wildfires is becoming more common across the state.
Last year Oregon saw its worst air quality ever recorded.
"If we continue along this current path we’re going to see more drought and more wildfires across our state and that means the frequency and severity of unhealthy days due to wildfire smoke are also going to increase, Susan Mills with DEQ said.
As a reminder, the air quality index ranges from good to hazardous.
For its report, DEQ looked at air quality trends in 24 Oregon communities.
As one example, before 2015 dating back to 1985, Portland had never had a day with air quality that was unhealthy for sensitive groups or worse.
But from 2015 to 2020, Portland had 23 days that were unhealthy for sensitive groups or worse.
Then in 2020 for the first time there were 3 very unhealthy days and 5 hazardous days.
Last year, we saw a later, shorter but more intense wildfire season.
This year, it's an earlier start.
"Unless we’re very careful we could see wildfire across the whole summer and possibly into the fall which means we will experience more unhealthy days of smoke," Mills said.
A concern for all of us because these very small particles can get deep into the lungs, causing coughing, chest pain, and asthma attacks and increasing the risk of heart and lung disease.
It's important to remember cloth masks do not do the trick in filtering out tiny particulate matter from smoke.
DEQ recommends a well-fitting N95 or B100 respirator.
And HEPA filters are your best bet at home.