An Allergist's Advice: Stay Away from the Smoke

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Black smoke blanketing a North Knoxville neighborhood is causing concern about the air quality, and rightly so. The fire at Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Plant is burning piles of plastic and rubber which contain toxic chemicals that are being released into the air.

Plumes of black smoke from a North Knoxville fire spell trouble for local air quality. /(WVLT)

The city of Knoxville issued mandatory evacuations for folks who are living close to where the fire is right now, about 65 homes or so. Anyone who can see or smell smoke should leave the area.

Dr. Laura Green is an allergist with the Allergy, Asthma, and Sinus Center and she explains some of the dangers linked to the smoke.

Air quality is an issue especially with patients who have underlying health issues or breathing problems. Those with chronic lung conditions like Asthma or COPD, those with some problems or the elderly, young patients are also more susceptible.

Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knoxville County Health Department says
The smoke is staying off the ground which is great.
But, the health department is still telling people to pay attention. You know your body, so if you're having any shortness of breath or any other breathing or chest pain, stay indoors. Also, it's important for moms and dads to not allow their children to go out play if you see smoke in your community. Also, shelter in place, shut those windows, turn off your air conditioner because you don't want to pull any of that smoke into your home.

So even healthy patients may feel some burning of the eyes from the smoke. They may start to cough or start to feel tight or uncomfortable in their chest. If you start feeling this way, then you need to get indoors.

Over the next couple of days, the air quality alerts are going to be very important. You'll want to monitor the news, you'll want to watch for those air quality reports. If the alerts are in the danger or caution zones, you need to stay inside.

We're worried about the smoke, but we're also worried about air pollution that could be lingering in the air for days. The smoke will travel for miles and miles so many people will be effected by this fire.

Dr. Buchanan adds we really don't have a good way to measure the air. The Knox County Health Department monitors aren't equipped to monitor direct smoke related air pollution such as this. They measure things more like ozone. And since we don't know exactly what's burning at the facility, it's best to stay as far away as possible for the near term.

And also, remember to not be exercising anywhere near this smoke. Drive with you windows up, and keep your air conditioning in your home off until the air appears cleaner and clearer near where you are.