Following days of furnaces running around the clock at full capacity amid the Arctic blast, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources today issued an Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution for Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha and Dane counties.
The “Orange” alert is being issued because of persistent elevated levels of fine particles in the air. The fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust and wood burning.
“The cold air temperatures and snow cover are keeping surface cold, and we’ve got warm air coming in at higher elevations with the warm front coming in,” said Anne Bogar, air management specialist at the DNR. “It’s capping the fine particles that are closer to the surface…It forms like a ceiling so the particles aren’t dispersed.”
The “Orange” level is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. People in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities.
People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms, the DNR said.
Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.
The alert is being extended until 6 a.m. on Friday.
“Over the next day, temperatures will come up, cold air will move on, and particles will be elevated and dispersed,” Bogar said.