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Jackson County News Release: Guidance on Air Quality and Wearing Masks

Medford, OR – Jackson County public health officials and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality continue to urge residents to take precautions from wildfire smoke.

A number of air quality monitors in the area have showed unhealthy readings over the last week.  Smoke is expected to be a concern in Rogue Valley as wildfires continue to burn.

During a wildfire, Jackson County public health officials and DEQ advise residents to take the following precautions:

·         Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations.
·         Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors
·         Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
·         People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.

It is highly recommended that people stay inside and limit their outdoor activity.  This is going to be your best defense in protecting your lungs from wildfire smoke.

If you must be outdoors, wearing a special mask called a “particulate respirator” can also help protect your lungs from wildfire smoke. You will want to choose a mask called a “particulate respirator” that has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it. Dust masks that are not NIOSH-certified may not offer protection from small particulate matter, even if properly worn.

Most people will find it difficult to use the respirators and masks correctly for general use. These masks do require that they are properly fit-tested and used correctly. It is impossible to get a good seal on individuals with facial hair. It is important to make sure the respirator fits properly and that air does not leak around the sides. If it does not fit properly, the respirator will provide little if any protection, and may offer the wearer a false sense of protection.

Filtering face-piece respirators and masks can make the work of breathing more difficult and can lead to increased breathing rates and heart rates. They can also contribute to heat stress.
Because of this, respirator use by those with heart and respiratory diseases should only be done under a doctor’s supervision. Even healthy adults may find that the increased effort required for breathing makes it uncomfortable to wear a respirator for more than short periods of time.

Decisions on whether to use respirators or masks as personal protection for people who must work outside should be made with the employer.

·         For more information on using the visibility index during wildfires
·         For information on smoke and wildfires in Oregon, visit  For information on smoke and wildfires in California, visit

·         For more information about wildfires and health threats from wildfire smoke, go to

Tanya Phillips, Jackson County Public Health, 541-770-7708
Katherine Benenati, DEQ, 541-600-6119
DATE OF RELEASE: Aug. 22, 2017