This is a critical moment. My family, like so many others in our community, anxiously awaits news about the wildfires burning across Boulder County and we are so grateful for the recent turn towards colder weather. First and foremost, our thoughts are with all who have been impacted. I am astonished by the bravery of our first responders and firefighters who are working tirelessly to save homes and slow the spread of the largest fires in Colorado and Boulder County history.
Just like my own family, Boulder County residents see and feel the impacts of climate change every day — it is frightening. In my household, it’s common practice for my toddler to open the front door early in the morning and share her ‘air quality assessment’ with the family: "the air smells yucky again today."
Our children are growing up with the dramatic effects of climate change and it's happening right now, not sometime in the distant future:
Boulder County recorded over 45 unhealthy air quality days this summer compared to 32 in 2019 — that's an additional two weeks of poor air quality this year;
This information is overwhelming, especially during a time that is already beyond stressful. Having worked on climate action for most of my twenty-year career, I am flooded with feelings of frustration that we have simply not done enough to combat climate change. However, in the same breath, I am more motivated than ever to work with you to tackle this issue.
Listed below are three ways we can take action to confront climate change and help build a more resilient Boulder County. I invite you to join me in this work.
- Urge elected officials and your members of congress to take action on climate change. The only way forward is bold, smart policy at federal, state, and local levels. Visit the Union of Concerned Scientists for ways to voice your opinion or visit this link for the names and numbers of congressional offices representing Boulder County residents: https://www.house.gov/representatives.
Submit a comment on the State of Colorado's GHG Reductions Roadmap report. Written comments can be submitted through November 1 here.
Register to comment at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) public comment session on Mission Change rulemaking on October 26. This rulemaking session is is to ensure that oil and gas development and operations in Colorado are regulated in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources. Register on the COGCC homepage where there is a written comments portal.
On October 28, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Department of Public Health & Environment, and Energy Office are hosting the third of three online public meetings to discuss Colorado's Clean Trucking Strategy. Register for the session via this web form. Public comments will also be accepted via email at email@example.com
2. Take Action at Home and in the Community
- Learn how you can reduce your home carbon footprint by scheduling a home energy assessment or upgrade your heating or cooling system to be fossil-free. Contact Boulder County's residential energy advisors, EnergySmart, for more information.
- Support local non-profits handling CalWood Fire and Lefthand Canyon Fire relief efforts. A new fund has been set up to receive cash donations at https://www.commfound.org/2020firesfund. For more information and details on how to give, visit: boco.org/FiresRelief.
3. Stay Informed
During a wildfire, if you can see or smell smoke, it is recommended that you avoid outdoor physical activities. If visibility is decreased in your neighborhood to less than five miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy. Get air quality updates here.
Children, Elderly, & People with Respiratory Conditions
If you can see or smell smoke, children, elderly, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing respiratory conditions should stay inside with the windows and doors closed. If it is hot outside, run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion, including fatigue, nausea, headache, and vomiting, and contact your doctor immediately if these occur.
Summer & Sports Camps
Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors. Avoid outdoor camp activities if you can see or smell smoke.
Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, as they have higher levels of heart or lung diseases than younger people. Check on elderly friends or relatives.
Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
When smoke levels are high, even healthy people may experience coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes, and a runny nose. If you can see or smell smoke, you should limit outdoor physical activities and stay indoors if at all possible.
Wildfire smoke contains pollutants that can be harmful to health. Particles from smoke tend to be very small and can therefore be inhaled into the deepest recesses of the lung and may represent a greater health concern than larger particles. Even in healthy people, this can cause temporary reductions in lung function and pulmonary inflammation. Particulate matter can also affect the body’s immune system.
Pets & Livestock
Animals are impacted by wildfire smoke just like humans. If you feel the effects of smoke, they probably do too. Learn how to protect your pets and livestock during a wildfire.
- Do not rely on paper dust masks found at hardware stores. These masks are not designed to block the small particles generated by wildfire smoke.
- Keep windows and doors closed.
- If you have an air conditioner, run it, but make sure that the fresh air intake vent is closed and the filter is clean. If not, turn the system off.
- Evaporative cooling systems can also pull in air from the outside. Consider using a portable evaporative cooler within your house to avoid pulling air pollution into your house.
- If these remedies are not sufficient, you may want to relocate to another location away from the smoke.
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