HELENA — This month of November begins air quality monitoring by Lewis and Clark County. This monitoring can help reduce the amount of air pollution in the Helena Valley when air quality gets too poor.
Outside of peak wildfire season, winter is when we can see some of our worst air quality in the Helena area.
Inversions trap colder air in the valleys and with it particulate released from wood-burning stoves, vehicle emissions, and even fine dust and dirt.
At around 2 PM on Monday Helena's air quality was considered “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” according to the county’s website as stagnant air hovered over the valley. Health officials said when that happens it’s important to burn sparingly or not at all.
“If everyone that basically is able to stop burning their wood stove can and does until that inversion gets lifted, that can make a huge difference,” says Environmental Health Specialist with Lewis & Clark Public Health, Valerie Stacey.
Those who can afford it and have access to alternative heating methods should mitigate their fireplace usage. Additionally, less idling of cars can help and EPA-certified wood stoves are a better alternative to traditional wood-burning stoves.
“It's really no different than when we have, you know, poor air quality in the summertime when there's wildfire smoke. The populations that were, that are really impacted the most are those that are most vulnerable: young children, the elderly, and then, you know, of course, anyone that has like existing respiratory conditions,” says Stacey.
If air quality becomes poor burning restrictions may be put into place until it improves.