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Letter to the Editor

Be careful in the smoke

To the editor: Living this far north breeds a different kind of person. You have to be at least somewhat tough to deal with the cold, the dark and the avocados that never seem to be quite ripe. The people living in Fairbanks tend to be a defiant bunch. However, I worry that under the current circumstances this resilient spirit is causing people harm.

The air quality index on July 10 entered the “very dangerous” category for PM 2.5 emissions. This means that the entire population is likely to experience negative health effects, not just children and asthmatics. The “very dangerous” category is one step below the most severe category, “hazardous.” When the air quality reaches the “hazardous” category (as it likely will this summer), everyone, regardless of how healthy they think they are, will be at risk of serious health effects.

But of course you don’t need to do research on the internet to feel the harshness of the air on your lungs from even short excursions outside. This stuff is terrible for us, and on some level I think everyone understands that.

But somehow I see daily defiance of this danger. From what I can gather people have accepted that the air quality is bad, but they refuse to let it marginalize their life. As such, good friends of mine are riding their bikes to work, taking walks with their families and in general are continuing with outdoor activities despite what some forest fires have to say about it.

The most painful sight for me this week was seeing a small boy selling Kool-Aid on the side of the road for $1. I was tempted to inform the proper authorities so that they would shut his business down for lack of proper licensing. Forcing him to return to the (hopefully) better air quality of his home.

Please, if you need to be outside for extended period of time, wear an N95 face mask, get an air filter in your home and buy a gym membership for the next few months. It’s not worth the cancer and cardiovascular risk.

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