Thick blanket of smoke covering Colorado likely impacting thousands

Posted at 3:20 PM, Sep 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-05 19:12:26-04

DENVER – The thick haze blanketing the Denver metro area and other parts of Colorado can pose a serious health risk to certain segments of the population, according to state health officials.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an Air Quality Health Advisory Tuesday as smoke from several fires burning in California, Oregon and Montana continue to choke Colorado’s air. Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, building materials, and other materials. 

Tuesday’s advisory was issued for 11 counties in northwest and west-central Colorado and is in effect until Wednesday morning. The heaviest smoke impacts will be felt in areas directly downwind from wildfires in Routt County, including the Steamboat Springs area, the advisory warns.

State health officials are warning residents who have heart or respiratory issues, and the very young and elderly, to avoid being outside as much as possible. Long-term exposure to poor air quality can cause a significant reduction in lung function, inflammation of the airways, and respiratory distress. 

Additionally, breathing in wildfire smoke can have immediate health effects, including:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing normally
  • Stinging eyes
  • A scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Irritated sinuses
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • An asthma attack
  • Tiredness
  • Fast heartbeat

If visibility is less than 5 miles in smoke in your neighborhood, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy, officials warn.

The smoke is expected to settle overnight, however occasional haze will continue to be visible in Colorado in the coming days.