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Air quality improving after the worst day in decades

Fog and clouds move in and smoke moves out of the Puget Sound area.

SEATTLE - Air quality across the region improved overnight -- going from 'unhealthy' for everyone to 'moderate' in many spots around the Puget Sound. Some areas are still rated 'unhealthy for sensitive groups.'

An onshore air flow moved into the area pushing smoke to the east with clouds and fog settling in over Seattle.

Just yesterday, air quality was the worst it's been this century and was worse than anywhere in the country.

At the Intergeneration Learning Center at Providence Mount Saint Vincent in West Seattle outdoor playtime is a favorite part of the day. But Wednesday’s polluted air forced teachers to cut outside time short.

“We’ve shortened play times by 30 minutes throughout the day,” said Charlene Boyd, the administrator for Providence Mount St. Vincent. “When they are outside they’re enjoying the weather, but at the same time we're not putting them at risk.”

Staff at Providence Mount St. Vincent aren’t the only ones. Local camps are moving activities inside and lots area of local high schools are shifting sports practices indoors as well.

Experts say that’s smart. Especially considering air quality on Wednesday in Seattle was similar to what a typical day is like in Beijing, China – a city that constantly struggles with air pollution.

“Smoke keeps coming in so we have reached levels that are unhealthy for everyone,” said Erik Saganic, an air quality forecaster for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

And that was easy to see on the street of Seattle Wednesday as some workers used masks to protect themselves.

Kat Spring, who was walking along 5th Avenue in Seattle with a mask on, said the smoke in the air is causing her troubling health issues.

“I’ve been having asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath and irritability,” she said.

Blame the wildfires burning in Canada and east of the Cascades. Wind is blowing in smoke leaving the air quality in the Puget Sound region unhealthy for everyone. It’s the fine particles from the smoke, according to experts, that are so dangerous.

“Fine particles are so small they go the deepest part of your lungs,” said Saganic.

Saganic said you can fit about 20 fine particles on the width of a human hair. Adding when they end up deep in our body they can cause serious health issues like heart disease, asthma and lung cancer.

Experts say what helps thr most is staying inside away from the unhealthy air.

“We have to take precautions either way,” said Boyd.

This is a good time to use an air purifier if you have one at home. Also, if you plan to wear a mask outdoor you need to use one that considered “N-95” or higher.

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