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Air quality health advisory issued by KDHE due to prescribed burns



TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued an air quality health advisory due to the number of prescribed burns.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says prescribed burning in the Flint Hills on Tuesday has contributed to elevated air pollution for parts of southern Kansas on Wednesday, including Wichita. It said additional burning on Wednesday will continue to impact air quality for the southern Flint Hills and westward, including Wichita, the Red Hills region and possibly Liberal. It said the Air Quality Index will likely range from Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups and possibly Unhealthy at times for areas on Wednesday and Thursday. It said the most significant impacts will happen during the evening, overnight and in the morning hours.

According to the KDHE, burning in the Flint Hills happens each year to help preserve the tallgrass prairie, control invasive species like Eastern Red Cedar and Sumac and provide better forage for grazing cattle. It said prescribed burns reduce the risk of wildfires and are effective to manage rangeland resources. It said smoke from the burns can impact air quality of downwind areas and can be carried for long distances.

The KDHE said prescribed burns release large amounts of particulate matter and substances that can form ozone. It said particulate matter and ozone can cause health issues, even in healthy people. It said common health problems include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses like bronchitis. It said those with respiratory issues, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and elderly residents may experience worse symptoms.

According to the Department, the following steps can be used to protect yourself on days when smoke is present in your community:

  • Healthy people should limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
  • People with respiratory or heart-related illnesses should remain indoors.
  • Help keep indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running air conditioners with air filters.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue.

The KDHE said it and its partners continue to implement the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan to help reduce the impact on air quality that comes from burning. It said the plan includes recommendations to reduce and disperse the smoke produced by the burning.