DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Fireworks that lit up the night skies on the 4th of July left a cloud of air pollution that hung over Southern California on July 5.
Leftover smoke was visible in places like downtown Los Angeles, where air pollutants are already always visible. But the fireworks smoke adds to the health risk, and it can be extremely harmful.
"This year we did see concentrations that were fairly high as compared to the last ten years or so. Not the highest, but fairly high, in the top highest years," said Dr. Scott Epstein, the program supervisor at the Air Quality Assessment AQMD.
It may sound hyperbolic, but the threat poor air quality poses to people who suffer from conditions such as asthma are causing doctors to see a rise of patients who are struggling.
"Patients who have underlying asthma are flaring up significantly higher today," said Dr. Ali Jamehdor, the medical director of Dignity Health at St. Mary's Medical Center in Long Beach. "On a usual shift, I will see one or two. I've already seen five patients with asthma exacerbation where they're short of breath, they're wheezing, they feel horrible. It's real. We're coastal. I can only imagine what the Inland Empire is dealing with."
Jamehdor said the smoke from the fireworks gets into people's lungs, then the bloodstream. And, he said it's not just the high-risk groups who need to be careful with air as hazardous as it is on July 5.
"Not only being indoors, but avoiding physical activity. People play golf. Tennis that should be avoided for today and tomorrow," he said.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District recommends people stay indoors, close windows, run their air conditioning and operate air purifiers.
If Southern California is able to avoid any major wildfires this season, July 5 could have the highest fine particle pollution levels this year.