With predictions that the toxic particulates of smoke and ash being belched into the lower atmosphere by the Thomas Fire could linger over Santa Barbara for weeks ahead, the county’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) has deployed additional monitoring stations throughout the region and is now issuing daily smoke forecasts.
Thursday’s air quality levels are currently “unhealthy” in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Goleta, according to the APCD data, which measures fine particles in the air, specifically “PM 2.5,” particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. “Moderate” conditions exist in the Santa Ynez Valley, Los Alamos, and Lompoc, with “good” levels in Santa Maria. The same conditions are expected for each area on Friday. The Independent will be publishing these forecasts daily.
As a point of size reference, there are approximately 25,000 microns in an inch. The smallest particles in the PM 2.5 size range are so tiny that several thousand of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence. While our bodies’ nose hairs are adept at blocking larger pieces of soot and ash from entering the lungs, they’re less effective at stopping these virtually invisible specks of matter.
N95 masks help prevent inhalation of about 95 percent of toxic particles, Santa Barbara health officials have said. Air quality readings in the region over the last two weeks have been worse than they’ve been in nearly 20 years.