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"As wildfire smoke becomes a part of life on the West Coast, so do its health risks"

The Washington Post interviewed Michael Jerrett, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of environmental health sciences, about possible ways to cope with poor air quality by cleaning the air inside a home and avoiding exertion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Every morning for the past few weeks, JoEllen Depakakibo has had a new kind of morning routine. She sets her alarm for 6 and opens the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow site on her phone. Newly fluent in the numbers of the air quality indexes, or the AQI, she checks the pollution levels compulsively throughout the day, waiting to make a difficult decision.

If the number passes 150, called “unhealthy” by the EPA, Depakakibo has her employees shut the main door and turn on a medical-grade air purifier inside Pinhole Coffee Shop, the cafe she opened here six years ago. If it passes 200, they close the cafe. She’s had to shut five times in recent weeks because of the smoke that has stubbornly settled over the city.

“I always check in with my staff to make sure they feel good about coming in. If they say they don’t, we won’t open,” Depakakibo said from her home in Oakland, where she and her wife had the windows closed and two air filters running to protect their newborn baby.