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Smoky air cancels Better Breathers meeting

By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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Rather than risking patient exposure to the smoky air, LaDonna Fukuyama canceled Thursday’s meeting for Better Breathers. “Since the last week in July, I’ve canceled my classes,” said Fukuyama, pulmonary rehabilitation coordinator with Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital. “I want them to stay inside.” Fukuyama just returned to her office on July 8, after being on vacation, and was pleased to learn that none of her patients made any emergency room visits, while she was away. About 99 percent of her patients have cardio-obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Those patients, along with patients who have asthma, allergy or other respiratory ailments, are more severely affected than most by the current unhealthy air conditions in Placer County. In order to participate in Sutter Auburn’s pulmonary rehabilitation program, a physician must refer members. After completing that program, they are eligible for the pulmonary maintenance program, which costs $39 per month. Even though the Better Breathers meeting was canceled, patient Andrew Passadore of Auburn had to go outdoors Thursday for his initial evaluation with Fukuyama, a respiratory therapist. The rest of the time, the smoky weather has kept Passadore inside. “It’s making me stay in the house, most of the time,” Passadore said. The retired general contractor has COPD and said even his trailer is not smoke-free, because it is cooled by an evaporative cooler, which brings in outside air. Passadore could improve the air quality in his trailer by installing a more effective, yet more expensive, cooler filter. That would help prevent harmful particles from the fires from entering his trailer, according to Fukuyama. The Placer County Air Pollution Control District released an air advisory statement this week, which extends through today. It advises residents to take “common-sense precautions as Placer County will continue to be affected by very unhealthy or even hazardous air quality at times.” According to the release, particulate matter found within smoke from the fires contains a multitude of particles, such as wood-tar vapors and toxic gases. Other pollutants found in smoke are carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. Those with heart and lung disease, including asthma, might experience heightened symptoms. Some symptoms from breathing unhealthy air include itchy eyes, coughing, wheezing and headaches. So far, Passadore noted that he has experienced itchy eyes. According to Dr. Christine Bonacci, director of pulmonary services at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, even healthy people are affected by the smoke. “Anyone could have airway irritation from all the smoke in the air,” Bonacci said. “They may notice they have more sinus irritation. For our high-risk patients, the best thing is to stay indoors, run the air conditioner and don’t open the windows at night.” So far, Dr. Bonacci said her patients have not experienced any serious problems, and she attributes that to them staying inside. The Journal’s Bruce Warren can be reached at brucew@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment at AuburnJournal.com.