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Public Health Division
Public Health Division

Air Quality in Berkeley

Air quality in Berkeley can be impacted by smoke from wildfires elsewhere.

Check airnow.gov to find current air quality conditions in Berkeley and follow the tips on this page to protect your health when air quality is poor.

In all cases, make sure we can reach you in an emergency. Sign up for AC Alert.

Protect your health when air quality is poor

When air is unhealthy, the best option is to reduce physical activity and stay indoors with doors and windows closed.

Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Smoke can irritate your eyes and airways, cause cough, a dry scratchy throat, runny nose, trouble breathing, and irritate your sinuses.

When inside

Avoid behaviors that make air quality in your home worse:

  • Set air conditioning units to re-circulate so you don't bring outside air in.
  • Don't smoke, burn candles, or use incense.
  • Don't use gas, propane, or wood burning stoves. Avoid frying or broiling meat.
  • Avoid vacuuming.

Take precautions when outdoors

Minimize time outside as much as possible.

When you must go outside, don't rely on dust masks or bandanas for protection. They do nothing to protect against smoke particles.

There is no clear evidence that respirator use by the general public is beneficial. N-95 respirators may not protect you and may be dangerous for certain people. N-95 respirators are not meant for everyone:

  • Talk to your doctor first if you have a health condition.
    N-95 respirators may be dangerous for people with lung or heart conditions.
  • Children should not wear N-95 respirators.
    N-95 respirators are not certified for children; they do not fit properly and can impede breathing.
  • If you choose to wear an N-95 respirator, make sure it is fitted properly
    Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Wearing an ill-fitted respirator can lead to a false sense of security.

Air Quality ratings

The Air Quality Index (AQI) provides guidance on who should take precautions when.

AQI Range Health Impact What to do
Good
0-50
Air quality poses little or no risk. It's a great day to be active outside.
Moderate
51-100
Air quality may pose a moderate health concern for very small numbers of people, such as those who are unusually sensitive to particle pollution. Unusually sensitive people: Consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion. Watch for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath. These are signs to take it easier.

Everyone else: It's a good day to be active outside.
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
101-150
Air quality may pose risks to people with heart and lung disease, older adults, children, and pregnant individuals. Sensitive groups: Reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. It's OK to be active outside, but take more breaks and do less intense activities. Watch for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath.

People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and keep quick relief medicine handy.

If you have heart disease: Symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, or unusual fatigue may indicate a serious problem. If you have any of these, contact your health care provider.
Unhealthy
151-200
Everyone may begin to experience adverse health effects. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Sensitive groups: Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Move activities indoors or reschedule to a time when the air quality is better.

Everyone else: Reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. Take more breaks during all outdoor activities.
Very Unhealthy
201-300
Everyone may experience more serious health effects. Sensitive groups: Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Consider moving activities indoors or rescheduling to a time when air quality is better.

Everyone else: Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Consider moving activites indoors or rescheduling to a time when air quality is better.
Hazardous
301-500
Entire population is likely to be affected. Everyone: Avoid all physical activity outdoors.

Sensitive groups: Remain indoors and keep activity levels low.

Preparing before a bad air event

The most important thing you can do to prepare is to sign up for emergency notifications at acalert.org. This will ensure we can reach you in an emergency.

Steps for everyone

Other steps you can take to prepare for poor air quality:

  • Know where to go.
    Make a list of places you can go with clean, filtered air.
  • Weatherize your home.
    Replace leaky windows and doors. Use caulking to seal the openings.
  • Gather supplies
    Gather supplies you need to stay in your home while air quality is poor. See the CDC's website on personal health preparedness.
  • Get an air purifier for your home.
    If you have an HVAC system, get a MERV 13 or greater filter. Otherwise, get a HEPA air purifier. The California Air Resources Board has information about selecting an air cleaning device.
  • Create a family emergency plan.
    Before an emergency happens, sit down together and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go and what you will do in an emergency. See FEMA's family emergency plan checklist.

Individuals with health conditions

If you have a health condition or belong to a group at high risk when air quality is poor, talk to your doctor in advance to create a personal plan for dealing with smoke.

The groups at greatest risk from wildfire smoke are:

  • People who have heart or lung disease
  • Older adults
  • Children
  • Pregnant individuals
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Public Health Division, 1947 Center Street, 2nd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: publichealth@cityofberkeley.info Phone: (510) 981-5300
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903
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