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Hazardous air quality advisory issued

September 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Because of the raging wildfires, health officials issued a hazardous air quality advisory Tuesday. "The smell of the smoke is very intense. It is really hard to breathe," said Alhambra resident Bob Bayliff.

"It is really thick. You can smell the wood burning. The thickness of the ash this morning on my car was ridiculous," said Highland Park resident Cecilia Valadez.

The ash accumulating on your car maybe bother you, but the particulates you don't see that your nose can't filter, experts say that's what is getting deep into your lungs. '

"What we are seeing now with these fresh smoke particles is probably more dangerous than what will come later when the wind blows up fallen ash," said Dr. Jon Samet from USC.

A USC and UCLA study of the 2007 wildfires in Southern California shows the ultra fine particulates produced in wildfires maybe more insidious than vehicular emissions because it can penetrate the walls of homes.

"We know they get into the home because we can smell the smoke in our homes. There are different organic compounds that bring that smell and they're coming in with the particles," said Dr. Samet. "Sometimes they are part of the particles themselves."

Health officials say the air quality in the foothill communities, from Santa Clarita to Yucaipa, is unhealthy.

In some neighborhoods the smoke maybe equivalent to what you get in terms of second-hand smoke in a popular bar.

"There is a lot of proof that second-hand smoke causes cancer and other diseases. It affects the respiratory health of children," said Dr. Samet.

The best advice is avoidance.

"Just keep all of the widows closed, doors closed and keep the AC on," said Bayliff.

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