TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reminds Kansans that mid-March through the end of April is the time when large areas of the state’s Flint Hills rangeland are burned. Well planned and managed periodic burns can minimize fire safety danger and are an inexpensive tool for managing rangeland.
For burns to be conducted safely and effectively, weather and rangeland conditions must be right. In years when these conditions are rare, many landowners conduct burns at the same time. Air pollutants from the burns can affect persons in the Flint Hills and can be carried long distances to more populated areas, particularly if these burns take place when meteorological conditions do not disperse the smoke.
One outcome of prescribed burning is the release of a large amount of particulate matter (PM) and substances that can form ozone into the air during a relatively short time period. The fine particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose coughing or difficulty breathing. Persons with asthma may experience aggravated symptoms. Individuals with pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and the elderly are most likely to be affected; however even healthy individuals may experience temporary symptoms from exposure to elevated levels of PM.
“I encourage Kansans to take precaution during the burning season by limiting their exposure to smoke, especially if you fall into one of the high-risk categories,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer.
Steps you can take to protect your health on days when smoke is impacting your community include:
* Healthy people should curtail or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
* People with heart or breathing related illnesses should remain indoors.
* Help keep indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running the air conditioner on ‘recirculate’ setting.
* Keep airways moist by drinking lots of water.
* Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue.
For more information about the burning in the Flint Hills, the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan and the April burn restrictions associated with the plan, please visit www.ksfire.org.