While hazy skies and smells of smoke may be common in California, for many of us living in Princeton and New Jersey, yesterday’s poor air quality was a shock.
While the news reports on fires raging in Quebec, unfortunately, that’s not the only cause. Yesterday, less than an hour away from Princeton, 70 acres of forest caught fire in Jackson Township.
One of Sustainable Princeton’s core strategic action pillars is strengthening community resiliency to climate change. The poor air quality that we are experiencing is why.
First and foremost, we need to make sure we are safe at this very moment. Governor Murphy shared this resource on ways to reduce your smoke exposure.
It’s important to understand that fine particulates in the air can affect everyone, even healthy people. Those with lung conditions, the elderly, and the young can be more severely affected.
The next action we must take is to ensure we prepare for future climate-related crises. Take time to sit down with loved ones and make or review a safety plan for climate emergencies such as floods, fires, and other instances where evacuations may be needed. Unfortunately, wildfires, extreme weather, and floods will occur more frequently as our climate changes. We need to be prepared for them now.
If you do not currently have an emergency plan, we have some tips to help you get started on our website here: https://www.sustainableprinceton.org/get-ready/
Finally, let us be clear that climate change increases the occurrences of forest fires. Climate change isn’t coming, it is here, and we need everyone in the community to help. Now is the time to commit to making sustainable changes in our lives and to look out for each other.
How Can I Be Alerted About Emergencies?
What is Particulate Matter?
Particulate matter (PM – also called particle pollution): the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
More than 100 million people in the United States live in areas with poor air quality. In many regions of the United States, climate-driven changes in weather conditions, including temperature and precipitation, are expected to increase ground-level ozone and particulate matter (such as windblown dust from droughts or smoke from wildfires). These changes worsen existing air pollution. Exposure to these pollutants can lead to or worsen health problems, such as respiratory and heart diseases.
Climate change can also affect indoor air quality. Increases in outside air pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter, could lead to higher indoor exposures. These pollutants can enter a building in many ways, including open doors, windows, and ventilation systems.
How Can I Reduce My Exposure to PM?
You can use air quality alerts to protect yourself and others when PM reaches harmful levels:
AirNow: Every day, the Air Quality Index (AQI) tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, along with associated health effects that may be of concern. The AQI translates air quality data into numbers and colors that help people understand when to take action to protect their health.