Ozone air pollution at worst level in 10 years due to wildfires
Take steps to breathe easier and stay healthy

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott Oxarart
775.328.2414 or 775.276.1021

Reno, Nev. - Several wildfires here and in California have caused air quality to deteriorate over the past week. Health officials in Washoe County Health District's Air Quality Management have reported that Washoe County experienced the highest (worst) level of ozone air pollution since 2008. An Air Quality Index (AQI) for ozone was 140 this past Sunday, Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. The highest ever for ozone in Washoe County was an AQI of 164 in 1984, Unhealthy. Ground-level ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight. While NOx and VOCs usually come from motor vehicles, industrial processes and other consumer products, wildfire smoke also contains pollutants that form ozone. The air pollutant called fine particulate matter (PM2.5) also found in wildfire smoke remains elevated in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups AQI range and will be a concern for the next couple of days.

How ozone forms:

Ozone and fine particulates in the air we breathe can harm our health. Wildfire smoke health effects range from eye to respiratory tract irritation to more serious issues including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and premature death. People with heart or lung disease, children, seniors, and people who are active outdoors are particularly sensitive to ozone and particulates that are found in wildfire smoke.

Be Smoke Smart. Protect yourself and others from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke by following these tips:

  • Stop or reduce outdoor activity; stay inside and reduce activity.
  • Keep air conditioner on if available, the fresh-air intake close, filter clean, and windows closed.
  • Don't use whole-house fans and swamp coolers. Consider using a portable air purifier.
  • Pay attention to air quality updates on,, and local media.
  • Subscribe to EnviroFlash to get the AQI forecast and alerts sent to your email (
  • Follow the advice of your doctor especially those with heart or lung disease.
  • Wet or dry cloths, dust, or surgical masks will not protect you from ozone or fine particulates.
  • If you are a healthy adult, N95 or P100 respirators can provide some protection from fine particulates if you must be outside.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Keep indoor air clean. Don't burn candles, vacuum, or smoke tobacco products.
  • Consider relocating temporarily.

For more information visit or call (775)784-7200.

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Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »
Call 311 to find resources, ask questions, and utilize Washoe County services. Learn More »