Flathead health officials say air quality is the worst in decade - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Flathead health officials say air quality is the worst in decades

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Bad air quality has hit many parts of the state hard, but some of the strongest impact has been felt in the Flathead Valley. Officials at the North Valley Hospital in Whitefish say this is the worst they've seen in decades. 

North Valley Hospital Registered Respiratory Therapist Carrie Bates says that there has been an increase in patients suffering from breathing problems. She says most are tourists from Canada along with other underlying health issues.

As the air quality diminished, Bates says their emergency room became busier. 

"Patients are coming in saying that the air quality is so poor; I've never seen it this bad," Bates said. "I've lived here my entire life. We've had a few patients report that their bikes they've had outside have dust particles on them after an overnight stay or their ATV's. They're seeing dust particles on their seats and their hoods of their cars." 

With the bad air quality still hanging over Flathead Valley area, hospital administrators say they have been seeing more patients regarding difficulty breathing and even have had to temporarily change up their operations. 

North Valley Hospital Facility Manager Joe Grabowski says he has had to adjust the amount of outside air that gets into the building to a minimum. By upgrading to a charcoal filter and running the air conditioner day and night, he hopes to minimize the amount of particles and smokey smell in the building. 

"2003 was a really bad year here," Grabowski said. "I think we've had worse days this year than we've had in 2003 especially in Whitefish. But I think the big difference between  2003 and this year was the length of time we had bad air." 

"Even when I lived in Idaho we would have local fires as well and this definitely is lasting significantly longer than my past history in this area," Bates said. 

Bates advises for those with pre-exiting conditions to skip the outdoors as much as possible; to make sure and carry your medications and to pre-treat before any exercise.

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