Campus Air Quality

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Lisa Wisser, Director, Environmental Health and Safety

Smoke from multiple northern California fires, including the Lightning Complex Fires in the Santa Cruz Mountains, is impacting our local air quality. The Air Quality Index (AQI) generated by the EPA’s AirNow and Clarity systems provides general air quality ranges along with corresponding health messages. At this time, the AQI from the Clarity nodes on campus indicates air quality is in the “Unhealthy” range, with a corresponding health message stating “Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.” Note that air quality has been fluctuating, and the AQI for campus and the Santa Cruz area is likely to continue changing over the next few days.

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

Campus residents with respiratory illness or other medical conditions that may be exacerbated by smoke exposure may pick up filtering masks (N95s) from the following locations:

  • Summer Session Students: Colleges 9 and 10 Res Life and Housing Office

  • Family Student Housing: FSH Office

  • Graduate Student Housing: 2:00 - 4:00 PM at GSH Office

Employees can contact EH&S at or 459-2553 for assistance with respiratory protection. 

Students who may be experiencing respiratory distress should consult with the Student Health Center or their personal medical provider. If you are experiencing significant imminent health issues, dial 911. Detailed information on after-hours health care for students can be found on the Student Health Center website. 

Where possible, reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors, consider staying inside, and keep windows and doors closed during times of heavy smoke. Most occupied campus buildings have been adjusted to maximize the amount of outdoor air as part of the COVID risk minimization strategy. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of bringing more smoke into the buildings. Contact your supervisor or manager if you need to work remotely due to smoke levels in your building.  

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