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Fairbanks, North Pole again under air pollution advisories

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Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012 11:56 pm

FAIRBANKS – After enjoying a short respite, Fairbanks’ high wintertime air pollution is back thanks to lower temperatures and a strong inversion.

On Thursday, with temperatures at the Fairbanks International Airport dipping below minus 40, the Fairbanks North Star Borough posted advisories with an “unhealthy” rating for Fairbanks and a “very unhealthy” rating for the North Pole area.

The advisory in Fairbanks warns against prolonged outdoor exertion for people with heart or lung disease, the elderly and children. The same group is told to avoid any outdoor activity in North Pole, and everyone else is advised to avoid prolonged outdoor exertion.

Borough Air Quality Division technician Jim McCormick said the inversion traps air pollution and said it’s expected to stay at least through the weekend.

“Right now, it got cold and the inversion set up strong, and the pollutants aren’t getting out of here,” he said. “It’s going to stay like this probably through the weekend.”

Wintertime air pollution has been a major problem in the Fairbanks North Star Borough in recent years, as spiking oil costs have driven more people to search for savings by burning wood. The air pollution is a mixture of wood smoke, vehicles and other sources of particulate pollution, but wood accounts for the vast majority of pollution.

With a particularly cold November, McCormick said there have been many complaints this winter and said people should expect to see more bad air quality days as long as it stays cold.

“We are of course seeing a lot of complaints coming in from the public,” he said.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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