The smoky smell in the air tipped off Dr. Thomas Dillard that there might be a winter air problem Friday.
Sure enough, when the pulmonologist at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics checked the air quality Web site Airnow.gov, the Augusta-Aiken area’s air had received a “moderate” rating for risk of health effects from air pollution. The decreased air quality is because of fine particle pollution, which adds some to the concern, Dillard said.
“It is only in the moderate range but is considered to be the most potentially damaging to the lung because it can penetrate further into the lung,” he said.
Still, it is probably only those who are sensitive to poor air quality, those with nasal allergies, or those with lung diseases such as asthma and chronic bronchitis who need to take precautions, Dillard said.
“They should consider not getting out in it and not engaging in heavy exertion,” he said.
The smoky smell might be because of large controlled burns at Fort Gordon in recent days, where 6,650 acres have been cleared since Tuesday, spokesman Buz Yarnell said. They occur off and on during the spring and fall, he said.
“It controls the vegetation out there so we don’t have any large fires,” Yarnell said.
Those who work with the Ambient Monitoring Program at Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division had noted the smoke in the Augusta area, program manager Susan Zimmer-Dauphinee said.
Part of the issue might be the warm weather system. While Georgia can see ozone problems in summer, winter can see buildups of particle pollution, she said.
“The fine particles tend to occur more during the wintertime because a lot of people are doing wood burning for heating their homes, and that can cause a lot of fine particles to be placed out in the atmosphere,” Zimmer-Dauphinee said. “There’s a lot of controlled burning going on right now, too, and that tends to happen more in the wintertime than in the summertime.”
Relief might be on the way. After peaking Friday morning, the concentrations appeared to have drastically dropped after the wind shifted to come out of the south, she said.
“That may have pushed it off,” Zimmer-Dauphinee said.