Burn season impacts air quality in the Valley

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) -- If you've walked outside lately and thought it smelled smoky, you're not alone.

It comes with this time of year, burn season, and with open burns there's more pollution in the air.

There are six different levels of air quality. Good is the best, and hazardous being the worst. Thursday, officials said the valley was at a moderate rating, which is just one step below good.

“The last couple days the skies have been really cloudy and brown looking," said Jill Drayton, a teacher in District 51.

For those with asthma, burn season can be tough.

“She'll start with a lot of coughing," said Theresa Andrade, whose daughter has asthma. “Probably more of the fire season that I’ve noticed this time around."

Add in an early allergy season and you have a recipe for a breathing disaster.

“Smoke causes pollution and that can definitely affect the air quality,” said environmental health specialist, Melissa Salter.

Salter said moderate isn't all that bad on the six level scale.

"We have monitors to be able to monitor the air pollution here in the Valley." she said. "And we keep an eye on the air quality index to help evaluate that.”

The Mesa County Health Department said there's no concern with a level this low but there are some things you can do to help.

"It is recommended that if you can avoid burning when there are large groups of people gathered, specifically around schools,” said Salter. “If you can, burn when the school is not in session that's usually the best for those areas."

"I’ve noticed the kids are coughing more," said Drayton.

Andrade said it depends on the day.

"If she is acting up really bad with her asthma, I will keep her home," she said.

There’s no policy about air quality and recess in District 51.

“You try and get them inside, make sure they're drinking lots of water and keep them hydrated," said Drayton.

Some parents and teachers have suggestions in mind.

"Maybe if they could just minimize it to certain days,” said Andrade. “So we know some days we'll have clean air to come out to breath and not have any asthma issues."

Health officials said they won't issue a restriction unless that moderate stage gets worse, or is expected to last for a while, which they don’t think will happen. The valley is just one point over from being at the good level.

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