OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — You can see it when you step outside.
Smoke from wildfires burning in Canada and the western U.S. is now in the metro area, impacting our air quality.
Because of that smoke, Douglas County Health officials said the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups.
The last few days, the air quality has been not great for vulnerable residents, meaning if you have compromised lungs it's best to minimize time outdoors.
Smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn.
The biggest health threat from this smoke is fine particles.
These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs.
They can cause a range of health problems from burning eyes and a runny nose to aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases.
Exposure to particle pollution is even linked to premature death.
Smoke becomes even more dangerous when it's mixed with toxins from burning homes, which is a sad reality during wildfire season.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said starting Aug. 3 through Aug. 4, poor air quality could impact the entire state due to the wildfires.
See their full release below.
An advisory of possible Moderate (yellow category) to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (orange category) impacts may occur statewide in Nebraska beginning August 3 through August 4. Intermittent Unhealthy (red category) impacts in certain areas are also possible. Impacts may continue at the Moderate AQI level through the weekend.
During yellow category/moderate conditions, sensitive groups should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion. When conditions rise to the orange category, sensitive groups are advised to reduce prolonged outdoor exertion. In red category/unhealthy conditions, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and consider moving activities indoors or rescheduling; others should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion and take more breaks during outdoor activities.
Wildfires in Canada and the western U.S. may affect the air quality in Nebraska. Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy staff monitor smoke levels and wind directions to assess when impacts to Nebraska's air quality may occur. Smoke advisories are issued for impacted areas by notifying the media and local health departments, and posting information on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy's (NDEE) webpages and social media sites. Advisories help citizens protect their health by alerting them to days where outdoor activities should be reduced or avoided to minimize exposure to smoke.
Advisories are based on data provided by National Weather Service, smoke plume modeling, and from air quality monitors located in Omaha, Bellevue, Lincoln, Grand Island, and Scottsbluff.
The following Air Quality Index (AQI) is used. This AQI is used nationally. For an hourly update on air quality across Nebraska, visit https://www.airnow.gov [link.mediaoutreach.meltwater.com]. To sign up for automatic air quality notifications by text or email, visit http://www.enviroflash.info [link.mediaoutreach.meltwater.com].