It’s day four of the huge fire at the Iowa City landfill and billowing black smoke can be seen for miles. Johnson County Public Health director Doug Beardsley says they’ve conducted five tests in the area over the past two days to check the air quality.
“While you might still see the smoke or you might be able to smell it, analyzing it we’re not seeing levels that would be alarming,” Beardsley says. Those who may be vulnerable to smoke should take precautions, however.
“We tell folks, ‘Avoid contact with the smoke,'” he says. “There are things in smoke that are bad for you — particulate matter. There’s chemicals in there. Some are carcinogenic, but when you start talking about carcinogens, you talk about long term exposure or intense exposure over long periods of time which may increase your risk. In the research we’ve been able to come up, there hasn’t been evidence of increased long-term health effects from fires of this nature in the past.”
Beardsley says most central air units recirculate air inside a home, so it’s fine to run air conditioning in the neighborhood around the fire. Hospital emergency rooms do not report an increase in admissions from folks in the Iowa City area who’ve experienced breathing problems because of the smoke and haze that’s hanging around because of the fire.