Air Quality Status

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Lisa Wisser, Director, Environmental Health and Safety

Smoke from local fires and the Camp Fire in Northern California has been impacting our local air quality over the past week. The Air Quality Index (AQI) generated by the EPA’s AirNow system provides general air quality ranges along with corresponding health messages. At this time, the AQI indicates that Santa Cruz air quality is in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” range, with a corresponding health message stating “People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.” Note that air quality has been fluctuating, and the AQI for Santa Cruz is likely to continue changing over the next few days. For reference, the AQI at UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and UC San Francisco is currently significantly higher, at the “Very Unhealthy” level.  

At the current air quality level in Santa Cruz, some people without medical conditions may be more comfortable staying inside and minimizing exposure to outdoor air. Others with medical conditions that may be exacerbated by air quality are encouraged to follow recommendations from their  medical provider.

If you choose to use respiratory protection, please note that only NIOSH approved face masks labeled “N95” or “P100” are designed to filter smoke particulates. General dust masks or surgical masks do not significantly filter smoke. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for assistance in respirator selection (459-2553, Students may purchase N95 masks at the Student Health Center pharmacy.

In addition to the above, Physical Plant Services is assessing the operational impacts associated with adjusting air handling systems within buildings that have this capability and notes that outside air flows through standard air filters which help to remove particulates. Where feasible, Physical Plant Services personnel may reduce the number of outside air changes per hour within buildings to help with this issue. These steps will only be taken for those locations where a reduction in air flow will not create other issues concerning air quality and thermal comfort within a building (i.e., CO2 levels or indoor temperatures rising to unsafe levels).

Environmental Health and Safety will continue to monitor local air quality and update the UC Santa Cruz community as substantive developments occur.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.