California wildfires may be contributor to air quality alerts in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY - An air monitoring site is located just to the west of Oklahoma Christian University. It's one of about two dozen Department of Environmental Quality monitoring sites in the state.

Inside, they're testing all sorts of things including ozone levels.

Normal levels should be no higher than 70.

"Right now, we're over that so we're up above the air quality index,” Curt Goeller, Environmental Programs Manager at the DEQ, said.

It's why the metro is under an air quality alert. An urgent call to be careful outdoors.

"Air quality alerts are real time, like right now this pollutant is a level of concern and so we issue those alerts. An ozone alert is a prediction for the next 24-hour period,” Erin Hatfield, spokesperson for the Department of Environment Quality, said.

The ozone alerts are issued based on several factors including weather conditions that concentrate ozone pollutants in the area.

Heat, humidity and light winds are major factors.

"It just kind of sits there and that's really one of the big contributing factors as well,” Hatfield said.

But, there may be another unlikely factor.

"One thing that we think, and it's a little bit difficult to prove this, but we certainly think the wildfires happening in the western part of the United States are contributing to the number of air quality health alerts and ozone watches that we've had,” Hatfield said.

Remnants of those massive California wildfires can have an impact on Oklahomans’ health.

Dr. Bret Haymore's advice is to stay indoors if you suffer from lung disease, like asthma.

"We do get some phone calls from people whose asthma symptoms are worsening and sometimes it's hard to know if it's just form the allergies or ozone’s or particulates in the air because sometimes those things go hand-in-hand as far as when those things are happening,” Dr. Haymore said.

Scientists say it’s likely to worsen in the next few weeks.

The DEQ wants you to carpool, avoid mowing and limit any outdoor burning to help the air quality levels.