Smoky Skies In Broomfield

Varying levels of air quality here in Broomfield may cause health concerns.

Within the first couple weeks of school, smoke was clearly visible in Broomfield skies.

Within the first couple weeks of school, smoke was clearly visible in Broomfield skies.

Elliot Graham, Staff Writer

As you have gone outside since the start of school, you may have noticed something about the sky: you couldn’t see far at all. Recently, the skies around Broomfield have become polluted due to fires, in and out of state. This has resulted in visibility issues and discomfort for many people while outside. Similar to Covid-19 symptoms, the polluted air has led to health problems.

The main pollutants causing these issues are ozone and PM 2.5, which stands for particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller, making it about 30 times smaller than a human hair at the larger sizes. This is a pollutant that leads to a high amount of health concerns. Particles within this measurement can travel deep into the respiratory system and cause short-term side effects such as a runny nose, coughing, eye, throat, and lung irritation, as well as shortness of breath. These particles can also have serious health risks to sensitive groups such as asthmatics, those with heart and lung disease, the elderly, and children. Ozone, the second main pollutant, has many of the same health risks.

This graph measures air quality. Green is perfectly healthy, yellow is moderately polluted, but not necessarily very dangerous, and red is dangerous for certain groups.

When symptoms are so similar to Covid, many students and parents are bound to have health concerns and stay home. Per the BHS absence reporting page, any student with minor symptoms of Covid-19—many of which are similar to the symptoms from inhaling the polluted air—lasting longer than 48 hours must have a negative Covid test result or they need to stay home for at least 10 days. Since ozone can get through many mask filters and many people don’t wear masks outside anymore, the polluted air can lead them to develop symptoms similar to Covid and thus, unnecessarily stay home.

Even though the smoke may be clearing up, air pollution is an ever-present issue that can have many small effects over time, effects that can add up. Long-term exposure to PM 2.5 can be linked to increased danger for heart disease and lung cancer, increased rates of bronchitis, and decreased lung function.

The standard N95 mask, named for its ability to filter out 95% of very small particles, can offer decent protection from the smoke; however, ozone is still able to get through the filter.

Air quality can quickly change and fluctuate, but it usually follows a pattern of improvement in the afternoon. Make sure to check your local air quality when you check the weather, and stay healthy.