Springtime Particulates Irritate Allergies, Asthma
Dust and sand levels high from winter road treatment
ANCHORAGE - When it comes to the air we breathe, Anchorage has among the cleanest. That is according to the annual State of the Air report, but have you seen the stuff flying around town lately?
KTVA went around town to find out how dangerous that airborne stuff is for your health. The American Lung Association gives Anchorage an "A" for air quality, but it only takes into account dangerous levels of ozone and small particulates. The city's air quality experts say our problem is bigger particulates, in particular the sand left on the roads from this winter's snow.
Warmer weather in Anchorage gets rid of snow but leaves the sand on the roads behind. Experts say high levels of dust are pretty typical during April’s breakup season, which is why air quality right now is not at the healthiest levels.
“The road sand comes out from underneath the snow and gets re-suspended by traffic, and so particularly along major roads we see some pretty high dust levels,” said Steve Morris, who is the city’s air quality program manager.
Fairbanks is considered one of the worst according to the 2012 State of the Air report, which ranks Anchorage as one of the best in the top 10, but local experts say that report focuses more on ozone levels, and not sand.
“All of that grime and dirt appears all at once and the city and the state are faced with cleaning it up,” said Morris. Street maintenance crews are hitting major streets and neighborhoods around the clock through Memorial Day, but that may not be enough for those dealing with lung issues.
“How bad the dust is, how bad their asthma is, that sort of thing,” said Morris. Even though the American Lung Association gives Anchorage a passing grade, when it comes to allergies when you’re outside, you might not be so lucky.
Air quality experts say those leftovers on the road can cause problems.
“Don't run along Tudor Road if you know you have asthma particularly, in the early morning hours when it's the worse,” said Morris, who says also people should be careful when cleaning around their home. “That's when your going to get exposed the most to the dust, you are going to see really high levels of particulate if you’re sweeping dry sand off your driveway.”
Use common sense methods to make sure your next breath is clean until all the dirt goes away.
While nobody wants much rain this summer, experts say it's the wet stuff that helps keep particulate levels down. They recommend not using leaf blowers and if you're out sweeping and wearing a dampened dust mask to help.
In the meantime street sweeping crews are asking drivers not to park on the street for now so they can clear off the dust and sand.