Bobcat Fire smoke particles are widespread, invisible, can penetrate lungs

Experts say the smoke particles in the air from the Bobcat Fire are invisible, but they can still penetrate your lungs and have an impact on your health.
MONROVIA, Calif. (KABC) -- It's not just ugly and smelly. The horrible air quality from wildfires is unhealthy even hazardous. And it's not confined to the fire zones: the smoke has spread across much of L.A. County.

Beautiful parks and outdoor dining is what makes living in Monrovia desirable. But these days, getting some fresh air is impossible.

"We are all just staying in our homes," said longtime Monrovia resident, Mignon Turner.

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As a claims adjuster, Turner deals with disasters every day. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with the smoky, ash-filled air. It's affecting everyone.

Dr. Victor Waters, Chief Medical Officer at Dignity Health St. Bernardine said, "The particles are invisible. You can't see them, but they penetrate your lungs and they could have an impact."

He said the air is especially unhealthy for people living in the San Gabriel Valley and mountain areas.

"Particularly those with asthma and chronic lung disease such as emphysema," Waters said. "Those people are particularly sensitive."

L.A. County health officials say the extreme heat combined with the wildfire smoke is producing the worst smog conditions we've had in 30 years. And it's compounded by COVID-19.

Air quality map: Here's how wildfires are affecting Southern California

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"I call them two monsters. We are dealing with the COVID crisis. If you contract it, it can eventually cause significant pulmonary problems," Waters said. "And then we are dealing with smoke inhalation issues from all the fires and that can cause more acute problems if you're exposed to it."

Doctors fear many who are suffering from breathing issues might avoid medical care because of coronavirus concerns.

"We encourage you not to think twice about seeking care. We will take care of the acute conditions and stabilize you," Walters said. "And we will admit you, if we have to and you will also be protected from any common potentiality."

His advice? Stay indoors, keep windows closed, run an air purifier and keep a mask on if you're going to be near people you haven't been quarantining with.

Mignon said keeping things in perspective will help get her through the next few weeks of smoky air.

"I know this will go away. It'll just take a little time," she said. "I'm on a first date. We sat outside. And I've got my little mask on so it doesn't affect me as much and we are just muddling through. This too shall pass."

Smoke from West Coast fires travels cross-country to New York City
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Meteorologist Lee Goldberg has more on how the West Coast wildfires have impacted the Tri-State area.

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