How wildfire smoke affects air quality - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

How wildfire smoke affects air quality

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

The smoke from the wildfires across the area can not only impact the environment but it can harm our health.

Particle pollution is a mixture of solids and liquids floating around in the air, they come in all different shapes and sizes. 

The evidence of wildfire in the Tennessee Valley and parts of North Georgia is pretty clear or smoky some would say. 

Smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles that have resulted from wood or vegetation burning," said Amber Boles, Air Pollution Control Bureau. 

If you're driving through town, chances are you've seen it from the highway to the mountain top or right outside of your front door. 

READ MORE | UPDATE: The latest on the Cherokee National Forest fire in Polk Co. 

Amber Boles with the Air Pollution Control Bureau says you should try to avoid breathing it in if you can.

"If you smell a hint of smoke you are taking fine particles into your lungs and you are being exposed to the air pollution," said Boles.  

Officials say this kind of smoke is different than breathing in dust or mold because our bodies can filter those small particles out. The particle pollution within wild fire smoke is about 30 times smaller than the width of a single human hair, too small to be filtered out.

READ MORE | Firefighters fight over 100 fires in Georgia, more popping up 

"When you breath them, they can go to the deepest part of your lungs," said Boles. 

Older adults, pregnant women, children and anyone with a preexisting respiratory or heart condition may be more likely to get sick. 

"It can cause irritation to your eyes, nose, throat, tightness in your chest and coughing. If you have asthma or heart disease it can actually prompt asthma attacks," said Boles. 

Experts say you can experience symptoms not just in the areas of the fires themselves but also several miles away, because particle pollution can be carried by the wind and it's just too small to detect.

"You can develop bronchitis and develop respiratory issues, COPD or lung cancer," said Boles. " I mean there are certainly long term effects if you are breathing them in for a long amount of time and so that's just another reason to take extra precaution." 

If you are experiencing any symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath, don't hesitate to consult with your doctor.

Officials with the Air Pollution Control Bureau are asking everyone to refrain from burning anything at this time.

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