Smog, haze prompts metro Denver air quality alert |

Smog, haze prompts metro Denver air quality alert

DENVER (AP) ” A lung-clogging layer of smog has been blanketing the metropolitan Denver area this week, prompting health officials to warn that even healthy people are at respiratory risk.

A stalled weather system is being blamed for trapping the layer of particulate matter over the areas. Official say there’s no wind to blow the mess away, and the situation could last through the weekend.

“We’re under a multiday episode,” said Mike Silverstein, a regulator at the state’s air quality division. “It’s a significant situation from a public-health perspective. We’re advising that all of our residents take precautions, not just the sensitive populations.”

To protect themselves, residents in the metro area should limit outdoor exercise. And to help the situation, people are being asked to drive less and forget about burning wood in stoves or fireplaces for now.

The situation is known as a temperature inversion. The high levels of tiny particles come from soot, the result of auto emissions and other combustion, including fireplaces. It’s an uncommon situation, but not unheard of, along the Front Range. It happens when stale air traps cold, polluted air against the mountains.

Air quality tests this week show some areas have peaked at a level of up to 100 parts per billion, nearly three times the federal government’s maximum healthy standard of 35 parts per billion and even eclipsing the old Environmental Protection Agency standard of 65 parts per billion, which was determined last year to be too lenient.

Health officials say the minute particles can bury themselves deep in the lungs and even lead to heart problems and reduce human life spans.

Officials have been surprised in recent days by Denver’s high pollution levels.

“We do have these meteorological conditions from time to time, but it’s an infrequent event,” Silverstein said. “Even to get values in the 30s was fairly rare, and now we’re seeing levels that exceed the old standard (of 65).”

The National Weather Service predicts more of the same weather pattern for the Denver area throughout the weekend, with fog overnight Saturday and calm winds Sunday. The winds may start to pick up by Monday when light snow is in the forecast.

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