LIVERMORE (CBS SF) — Offshore winds sent the air quality index readings of the unhealthy air blanketing the Bay Area from the Camp Fire soaring in many cities Wednesday with no sign of respite in the coming days.

According to purpleaair.com, Pleasanton had soared from a AQI (air quality index) of 284 at 1:25 p.m. to 338 by 2:25 p.m., San Francisco had gone from 189 to 195 over the same time span and the reading in Orinda had climbed from 234 to 257.

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Headed east on the Bay Bridge Wednesday, the East Bay Hills looked like they simply didn’t exist, blotted out by a thick layer of smoke from the Camp Fire.

Inside classrooms at UC Berkeley, N95 masks were being worn indoors by a number of students.

“I get mostly headaches and kind of short of breath,” said med student Anh Nguyen

Smoke is usually difficult to capture on camera at night, but on First Street in Livermore Wednesday evening, you could see the haze as the light filtering through the smoke.

In Livermore, the AQI hit 285, a level high enough to qualify as hazardous. Despite that, there were still folks eating on the patio at First Street Alehouse.

“I feel okay. I just have a slight cough,” said Livermore resident Dylan Clark

“My throat, like I have a sore throat and it’s uncomfortable,” said local Sarah Pancost.

Many residents across the Bay Area have begun wearing masks while they are outdoors and local air quality officials have issued warnings to limit your exposure until at least Friday.

“The only thing I do notice is my eyes are burning,” Dana told KPIX 5. “And a little bit of coughing…I should be wearing a mask…I’m trying to stay inside as much as possible.”

Steve also was feeling the effects.

“I’ve been feeling a little tightness in the chest,” he said. “Maybe a little headaches. Sinus issues. But a lot of my friends and my cousin told me they were having the same issues. It’s a concern.”

While the smell of the smoke was absent for a time earlier Wednesday, the air is still very much a health hazard.

Doctors are warning bay area residents to stop exercising outside, but when KPIX 5 cameras came to one of the most popular exercise spots in San Jose, found people doing just that.

The problem is the particles that are lingering around are especially harmful, measuring about 2.5 microns across.

That is a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair.

Folks who exercise outside, take in more of the particles, which bypass the mouth and nose, travel through the bronchial tubes, and settle deep inside your air sacs, where they can cause allergic reactions with your immune system, including but not limited to: dizziness, headaches, bronchial spasms and irregular heartbeat.

The University of California, Davis announced Tuesday evening that it would resume classes on Wednesday despite severely poor air quality engulfing the area, but officials changed their minds after an outcry by professors and students.

• UPDATE: Classes At UC Davis Have Been Canceled Wednesday (11/14)

Arguments focused on the potential health risks of attending class and working outdoor campus jobs in severely unhealthy breathing conditions.

Pulmonologist Will Tseng said people who are exercising outside are putting themselves at great risk for lung, heart, neurological and immune system problems. Tiny particles in the air can embed themselves deep in one’s body.

“I have seen those people and I really advise people to not do that! Now is not the time to pursue outdoor activities at all,” said Tsang.

Some workers, such as roofing crews, were allowed to go home and avoid the bad air after some supervisors felt their eyes and throats burning.

Tseng advises outdoor workers to wear a custom-fitted N95 mask. A generic over-the-counter mask may also work.

“You can at least try. It’s better than nothing, You can still try it. But please, if you work outdoors, I strongly recommend you to avoid long exposure outside,” said Tseng.

The good news is that healthy adults usually recover completely from short term exposure, in about a week or so. But the most important thing is for people to limit their outdoor exposure.

Comments (2)
  1. Sam Berger says:

    No more N95 masks anywhere.

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