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San Francisco air quality goes bad again

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But don’t panic—it’ll pass

An unhealthy haze settles over the bay Friday morning. Photo by Brock Keeling

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA] Air Now site, air quality in San Francisco has taken another turn for the worse, and residents are advised to take steps to minimize their exposure.

On Friday morning the city’s Air Quality Index [AQI] score was 109, designated as “unhealthy for sensitive groups” such as “people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children.”

People who fall into those groups should avoid going outside until the air turns and should avoid doing anything physically exerting.

“Even if you are healthy, you may experience temporary symptoms such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; phlegm; chest tightness; and shortness of breath,” indicate the EPA’s guidelines.

Although at this level of hazard few healthy people have much to worry about, it’s still wise to minimize your personal exposure if you can.

Outside of SF, the rest of the Bay Area presently has air quality that the EPA designates “moderate”—worse than usual for the region but still not bad enough to pose a danger to anyone’s health.

The EPA forecast predicts SF exposure levels will drop down to “moderate” levels later today.

Today’s AQI in San Francisco is just a fraction of what the city experienced a month ago, when smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County created unprecedented conditions around the bay, with scores well over 300.

Presently, Cal Fire indicates no unconfined fires anywhere in California, although the Camp Fire blaze continues to smolder in places.

It’s not immediately clear why the air turned bad today, but as Walter Wallace, spokesperson for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told Curbed SF in 2017, it’s inevitable that a few anomalous bad days hit the region now and then whenever certain factors cluster together.

This is also a reminder to keep a couple spare N95 masks around the house just in case, as retailers experienced immediate shortages when SF suffered a spate of unhealthy air in November.