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Indoor air monitoring at Ellensburg & Kittitas schools shows poor air quality

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KITTITAS COUNTY, WA - Upon request of Ellensburg School District and Kittitas School District, the Kittitas County Public Health Department (KCPHD) conducted indoor air monitoring at all Ellensburg and Kittitas school buildings yesterday. Indoor air readings ranged from “unhealthy” (red) to “hazardous” (dark red) leading to the districts’ decision to close schools until at least Monday, September 11th.

Indoor air monitoring is conducted with two E-Sampler monitors that were purchased with federal grant funds in 2015.  The monitors are owned by Kittitas County but are available for use within the public health emergency preparedness region 7 which includes Grant, Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan Counties.  Kittitas County currently has priority use because of the declaration of emergency that is in place.  The monitors are for testing indoor air quality in public places only.  A sampling of private locations have been tested for comparison purposes and have ranged in the “very unhealthy” (purple) zone, indicating that while many home settings may have better indoor air quality than some public locations, it is difficult to completely escape the current poor air quality conditions in Kittitas County. 

Additionally, the Putnam Centennial Center was retested yesterday and readings were in the “unhealthy” (red) to “very unhealthy” (purple) zones showing worsened indoor air quality compared to the readings taken earlier in the week. 

KCPHD recommends that residents can take steps to help protect themselves from the health effects of wildfire smoke by following the Washington State Department of Health’s recommendations below:

  • Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible. Take the following steps when indoors:   
  • Keep windows and doors closed. If there is no air conditioning and it is too hot to keep windows and doors closed, consider leaving the area or spending time in an air conditioned location.
  • Run an air conditioner (if you have one), set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake. Make sure to change the filter regularly.
  • Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollution. A HEPA filter may reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air. A HEPA filter with charcoal will help remove some of the gases from the smoke.
  • Don’t add to indoor pollution. Don’t use candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Don’t vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Don’t smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
  • Some room air cleaners can help remove smoke particles indoors. California’s air cleaning devices for the home fact sheet (PDF).
  • Information about keeping indoor air free of smoke: Improving Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality during Wildfire Smoke Events (PDF).

N95 masks are available for people who can’t stay indoors and are meant for outdoor use.  The following locations have N95 masks available during business hours.  Please note that masks must have a good fit and seal to provide any protection. It is difficult to get a good seal with masks on children.  Masks will not seal on people with facial hair. 

  • KCPHD, 507 N. Nanum Street, Suite #102, Ellensburg
  • Putnam Centennial Center, 719 E 3rd Street, Cle Elum
  • Kittitas County Fire & Rescue #7, 123 E 1st, Cle Elum
  • Ellensburg Adult Activity Center, 506 S. Pine St., Ellensburg
  • CWU SURC, 400 E University Way, Ellensburg

For more information about health concerns relating to air quality or informational resources, please contact KCPHD at (509)-962-7515.