American Lung Association Releases Health Tips for Residents Near Richmond, Indiana Industrial Fire Site

American Lung Association offers timely health tips to people impacted by the toxic smoke from the Richmond, Indiana industrial fire. More than two thousand people were forced to evacuate on Tuesday, April 11, after a massive fire erupted at a facility that recycles plastics and other materials. Giant plumes of hazardous black smoke billowed into the air and while the fire is now contained, Indiana fire officials expect it to burn for several more days.

The EPA and Indiana health officials are on site testing and assessing the air quality.

The American Lung Association urges all area residents to follow guidance from on-site emergency personnel such as local police and emergency coordinators, and instructions on the radio or television broadcast system. The organization is also providing tips and heath information to the public regarding this incident.

People who live downwind of the fire are advised to keep their pets inside and to keep their windows closed. 
Nearby Ohio communities, where wind blew smoke across the state border, should also take precautions.

Smoke from the fire can cause an increase in particle pollution in the area. Particle pollution, often referred to as PM or soot, refers to a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles that are in the air we breathe and can cause a variety of health harms. In addition, the harmful chemicals or gases that escape into the air when an industrial accident like this occurs can be harmful or possibly fatal to nearby individuals—which is why it is so critical that evacuation orders be promptly followed.

To help residents protect their health, the Lung Association released the following health tips:
 
  • Follow advice to evacuate when directed and stay away until the evacuation order is lifted: Smoke from the fire site can include gases, chemicals and soot pollution that can pose life-threatening harm. Wind direction changes and can blow those contaminants far from the original site. Listen to public health and emergency directions to know about steps to take to protect yourself and your family.
     
  • Don't count on a mask: Dust masks, designed only to filter out particles, do not provide adequate protection. Ordinary dust masks allow gases and the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Although special, more expensive dust masks with true HEPA filters or N-95 masks will filter out some damaging fine particles, they may not fit properly, won't protect against harmful gases and are difficult for people with lung disease to use. 
     
  • Keep an eye on symptoms: Higher levels of smoke, gases or chemicals can make breathing more difficult. If you are experiencing new or worsening symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. Seek emergency care if symptoms are severe, such as difficult or painful breathing. The first symptoms can appear 24 hours or even days after exposure.
     
  • Special considerations for people living with chronic lung disease: People living with certain medical conditions such as asthma, COPD or cardiovascular disease may be at higher risk for health effects. Specifically, people with asthma or COPD should follow their asthma action plan or COPD action plan developed with their healthcare provider and report any worsening of symptoms promptly. Living with any chronic lung disease may put you at risk for new or worsening respiratory symptoms and it is important to avoid exposure whenever possible and pay close attention to your symptoms.
     
  • Ask for help. The American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about the lungs, lung disease and lung health, including how to protect your lungs during emergency situations.
     
For more information on how to protect your lungs from fire smoke or chemical releases, visit Lung.org/disaster.
For more information, contact:

Janye Killelea
312-940-7624
[email protected]

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