Due to a fire and drifting smoke to the western side of the island of St. Croix, pollutants may have affected the air quality. The public needs to be aware that these conditions may cause health issues related to the respiratory system. People who reside in the affected area and businesses from Castle Coakley to Mars Hill (about 10 miles) should take precautionary measures to reduce inhalation exposure.
The smoke released from this fire is a mixture of particles from tires and batteries that contain certain chemicals, which can be harmful health. Two of the major agents in smoke that can cause health effects are carbon monoxide gas and very small particles too small to be seen with the naked eye; exposure to high levels of smoke should be avoided. Inhaling carbon monoxide may result in headaches, shortness of breath, irritation to the eyes, nausea/vomiting, reduced alertness, just to name a few reactions.
Individuals are advised to limit their physical exertion if exposure to high levels of smoke cannot be avoided. Those with cardiovascular (i.e. abnormal heart beats) or respiratory conditions (i.e. asthma), pregnant women, infants, young children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to the health effects of smoke exposure.
• Close windows and doors of residence (as could be tolerated) to minimize the air particles coming into the home.
• Closely monitor family members particularly those affected by asthma, sickle cell, heart disease and immune deficiencies. Seek medical attention if any problems noted.
• Close windows of vehicles when passing in the vicinity
• Persons having difficulty breathing should seek out emergency medical services.
Anyone experiencing difficulty breathing or any other effects should seek medical care immediately. Individuals with persisting or frequent symptoms that they think maybe associated with smoke exposure should also see their health care provider. Asthmatics are at risk for having a lung reaction to the particles. There is also the potential for chronic health effects from exposure to the components of smoke.
The V.I. Department of Health encourages family heads to monitor themselves and family members. Pay close attention to family members who are more at risk of developing cardiac or respiratory problems. The Department of Health will continue to monitor the situation and will provide more information as necessary.