Breaking News
More () »

Here's why Louisville is under an air quality alert, which may be unsafe for some people

The Air Pollution Control District has already issued an air quality alert for Thursday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Communities across the country are experiencing poor air quality due to ongoing wildfires in Canada. 

Here in Louisville, an air quality alert is expected for Thursday, warning the air could be unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. 

Matt Mudd, with the city's Air Pollution Control District, said the wildfires are dispersing what's known as fine particle pollution. 

"A fraction of the size of human hair," he said of the pollution particles. "The reason those are such a concern for your health is because they're so small they can get into your lungs and bloodstream." 

ACPD issues alerts based on the air quality index, which ranges from "Good" to "Hazardous." 

Alerts are issued when air quality reached the "Elevated" range, meaning the air could be unsafe for sensitive groups like older adults, children, and those with lung and heart disease. 

"Complications of ailments you already have can be very serious, so if you're in one of those sensitive groups, we definitely encourage you to be careful," Mudd said.

People who may be at risk are encouraged to limit time outside or extensive outdoor activity, which could lead to coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue and other potentially long-term health impacts like asthma attacks.

VERIFY: Here's how to protect yourself from wildfire smoke

Dr. Monica Unseld, with Until Justice Data Partners, also recommends wearing a mask outdoors and utilizing an air purifier. 

"I have asthma, so for me when I walk outside it feels like I'm hitting a brick wall, it feels like the air can't get in my lungs, and when I walk my dog I wear a mask," Unseld said. 

Unseld added part of the reason the pollution is concerning is what's burning, and what other pollutants are picked up on the way to the Ohio Valley. 

"We're not just breathing in burning trees and grass, we're breathing in a lot of toxic chemicals," she said. 

Mudd said the elevated pollution levels are a combination of fine particle pollution, from the wildfires, and regular summer expectations. 

"Recently we've seen plenty of hot, dry, sunny summer days, so we've seen elevated levels of what's called ozone pollution," he said.

ACPD will issue air quality alerts day by day, watching carefully to see if health concerns spread beyond sensitive groups. 

You can follow along for live updates on the area's air quality index here.

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.

Have a news tip? Email assign@whas11.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Before You Leave, Check This Out