DENVER (CBS4) – Smoke from wildfires around the state have been plaguing Denver air for weeks. Sore throats, coughs and stinging eyes are symptoms many people have noticed on hazy days, but the impacts of long term exposure are a mystery.
Dr. Anthony Gerber, a pulmonary specialist at National Jewish Health, says the long term effects of poor air quality in Denver are not clear. However, in the short term, he says these smoky conditions lead to greater risk of getting a viral infection.
“How that translates to COVID-19, we don’t know, but we do think in general your risk of getting sick or having other things happen are higher on these days when there’s these particles in the air,” said Gerber.
He says the masks we wear to prevent the spread of coronavirus do virtually nothing to protect us from the smoke we’re inhaling outdoors. After weeks of hazy skies, many have learned to adjust.
“You’re a little sorer, because you’re not getting as much oxygen into your body. It makes it hard to breathe, but we suffer through it,” said Louis Rodriguez, a runner in the Denver area.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for 27 counties last week. Children and people with preexisting respiratory issues are more at risk than people like Louis, but many aren’t aware of the dangers they could be breathing in.
“The term of a wildfire is a bit of a misnomer because a lot of them are burning towns, they’re burning cars and other combustible elements. A lot these of these wildfires, we just don’t know what’s burning in them,” said Gerber.
With climate change, Gerber says this poor air quality is something we’ll have to get accustomed to as our new normal.
CDPHE recommends everyone living within the advised area to limit outdoor activities particularly when smoke is thick or becomes thick. The health department also requests a reduction in driving gas or diesel vehicles whenever possible to lessen the impacts on air quality.