DEQ annual report shows Medford air quality exponentially worse in last 5 years

MEDFORD, Ore. —We’re learning, the impacts from wildfire smoke are increasing in our area, over time. A new report from the DEQ shows how intense those impacts are to our air quality.

The DEQ’s report shows a trend, unhealthy air quality days are rising across Oregon. With the rise in large wildfires, doctors say breathing in wildfire smoke could be harmful long term.

Oregon’s DEQ says, in 2020 Oregonians experienced the worst air quality ever recorded in the state. While the 2020 fire season was shorter, the DEQ says it was more intense.

“We might see more intense wildfires that produce higher concentrations of smokes and so they might not last as long, but the intensity of the poor air quality could be worse,” said Tom Roick with Oregon DEQ.

Roick says the September wildfires broke records for measuring pollutants in the air. Roick says the smoke was so intense, it broke some of the state’s monitors.

“Our air monitoring stations were measuring higher concentrations of the pollutant pm25 than we’d seen at all historically,” said Roick.

Air quality is listed in the following categories, good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous.

“In a more typical year, we might see impacts that are in the orange range or the unhealthy, what we saw in 2020 was that there were more days where they were actually up to hazardous on the scale,” said Roick.

The DEQ report says Medford had 18 unhealthy days between the years 1985 and 2014. Between 2015 and 2020, a quarter of the time, Medford saw 46 unhealthy days.

The trend was also discovered in Klamath Falls. It had 20 unhealthy days from wildfire smoke before 2015. Since then, it had 37.

“If people are exposed to any carcinogen or harmful particulate for any degree of the time those things can have detrimental effects,” said Dr. Derrick Flack with Asante Urgent Care.

Dr. Flack says it’s important to be mindful of the air quality index, especially if you are elderly or have pre-existing conditions.

“Chose to run inside on a treadmill things of that nature, where we still want you to be active but doing it in a way that’s more health-conscious,” said Dr. Flack.

When possible, limit the amount of time you spend outside in these conditions.

An air quality advisory is currently in effect for Jackson, Klamath, Douglas, and Lake Counties.

NBC5 News Reporter Jenna King is a Burbank native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at the U of O, she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through interning with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors, or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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