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Dust in the wind means air quality watch for Pima County

High levels of soot, dust and aerosol matter in the air have led officials to caution people with sensitivities to limit outdoor activities for the next day or so in the Tucson area.

The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality has issued an air quality watch because of elevated levels of particulate matter in the eastern part of the county, including the metro area.

"Particulates will likely remain in the air for a day or more until the easterly wind direction and speed changes, or if it rains," said department spokeswoman Beth Gorman.

"PDEQ monitors are currently recording particulate levels in the lower moderate range; however, levels could rise into the upper moderate range later today as this weather pattern persists," she said. "Unusually sensitive people may want to consider reducing prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion."

From Gorman:

Individuals with heart disease and respiratory sensitivities may want to reduce their level of exertion to decrease the amount of particulates they breathe into their lungs. Small particles can travel into the respiratory system and cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Those most at risk may feel better if they avoid outside exercise, stay inside as much as possible, and keep windows and doors closed to help reduce exposure to particulate matter.

Particulate matter is made up of tiny specks of soot, dust, and aerosols that are suspended in the air we breathe. Particulate matter can come from dust from disturbed land that becomes airborne with high winds and also from combustion sources such as cars, industry, and indoor and outside fires.

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