This Week the Question has been consistent from Google’s frequent search results: “Orange County Air Quality”, “Is it Safe to Exercise in Orange County”. While we have watched the fire blaze from all over Orange County and Corona, west of the Santa Ana Mountains, has proved deceptive. Receiving texts and calls from my neighbors 3 miles south of us Thursday night, “Are you ok?”, was the theme. Apparently, as the crow flies over our house, the flames visible from the Holy Fire looked to be moving in on San Clemente.
Understandably, second to the immediate danger of flames and loss of property are the auxiliary questions of how big an impact the fire will have on local activities, communities, and what the side affects on Orange County Air Quality. All great questions. The appearance of smoke and haze in the background of our immediate line of sight begs the question: Is Orange County Air Quality Still Safe to Exercise as the Holy Fire still blazes at 40% containment?
The Environmental Protection Agency measures Air Quality Index (AQI) on a scale of 0 to 500.
Sunday’s Air Quality from the AirNow.gov shows 42 (green) in the scale of 1-500 in Orange CA. Click here to see the AIR QUALITY INDEX NEAR YOU.
Not all the air we see is dangerous
While there may be physical signs of smoke and apparent smoke in the form of fog, not all all the air we see is dangerous. What puts humans at risk is airborne particulate. The particles in the air are the EPA Measure for health for activities and danger to animals and humans breathing poor air quality.
Examples are: irborne water that is evaporating, or condensing. Take for instance, a frozen exhale on a winter day, or water evaporating from the street while washing your care on a 95degree day. That’s completely benign evaporated (and visible water).
Google Defines Smoke:
1. a visible suspension of carbon or other particles in air, typically one emitted from a burning substance.
|fumes, exhaust, gas, vapor;
“the smoke from the bonfire”
So where do we go to find current air quality?
As a servant of a community of bike riders here Southern California, the biggest concern we have is making sure we take care of our people and make decisions that serve each of our participants. That has left us continually monitoring air quality this week at Over the Hump. Our Question has been reflected in many incoming inquiries: “Is it safe to race? Will you cancel this week’s race? What will happen this week with the fire?”. All good questions and we want to provide real answers, backed by data.
As we’ve engaged consultant RDB Solutions this season, one thing Ross Bennett (an OTH racer) has encouraged in our decision making throughout the season is the mantra spun by W. Edwards Deming,
“In God we trust; all others bring data.”
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is the data grounded source of our decision making and fact finding through AirNow.gov as we determine if the air quality is good enough to race in the coming week.
Will this week’s race be cancelled? …No…
…unless the Air Quality Index shows a risk to racer health.
How we’ll determine if it’s safe?
How have we determined if it’s safe for our families to ride bikes in the coming weeks, as predictions are the Holy Fire will take weeks to completely extinguish?
Air Quality Index is 0-100 is an indicator that it is safe to race.
Air Quality Index (AQI) by AirNow.gov is our guiding light in whether we will operate races during August at Over the Hump, as the fire affects our local community. AQI of 0-100 in the Irvine and Orange we will race.
What does Air Quality Index mean?
Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. The six levels of health concern and what they mean are:
- “Good” AQI is 0 to 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
- “Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.
- “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” AQI is 101 to 150. Although general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.
- “Unhealthy” AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
- “Very Unhealthy” AQI is 201 to 300. This would trigger a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.
- “Hazardous” AQI greater than 300. This would trigger a health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.
So, though it may appear that the smoke with choke us visually, the fact remains we can assess through particulate matter whether it is safe to exercise based on evidence of particulate in the air.
Most important: we want you safe, and send our love to the affected
What can we do to help?
We love this community, and are grieved by the pain caused to our friends affected by the fire. So, what can we do to help?
So here’s the more important question…what can we do to help local communities and friends recover and subsist during the difficulty of the Holy Fire still burning in the Cleveland National Forest?
Help us understand the needs of Holy Fire affected communities:
Comment below if you know how and where people can help.
Let’s share what can be done to support our friends and neighbors directly impacted by the fire, and we’ll mobilize to meet the greatest needs.
This is an amazing community, with amazing people, who activate to serve the people and community we love. Better together!