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Smoke from western wildfires impacts air quality in East Tennessee

You will notice a haze in the air, particularly in the mornings and evenings, that is creating some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, but it also impacts air quality

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Smoke from wildfires burning in the west is impacting the air quality here in East Tennessee.

The massive fires, burning in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, are sending heavy smoke into the air that's traveled more than 2,500 miles to reach the southern U.S.

You will notice a haze in the air, particularly in the mornings and evenings, that is creating some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, but it is also impacting our air quality.

An Air Quality Alert has not been issued, however, our air quality spent most of Thursday in the orange category, which is unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation told 10News in an email that they declined to issue an air quality alert because the air quality was not forecast to be in the orange on Thursday.

Air quality in the yellow range-- above 50 AQI-- for Friday, meaning people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens should limit strenuous outdoor activities.

"If we're exerting ourselves, which means we're taking more breaths," said Internal medicine Dr. R. Michael Green. "We're going to be more dependent on that air." 

Dr. Green said he tells his patients time outside is okay as long as they're not in one of those sensitive groups, but tells them not to exert too much. 

With the Delta Variant of the coronavirus floating around, Dr. Green said it may be difficult for patients to tell if they have COVID or are just irritated by the smoke. Dr. Green said he asks patients to look at other symptoms, like fever, chills and body aches, that wouldn't exist with air quality issues. 

Also on Thursday, Knox County Air Quality Management issued a burn ban due to the poor air quality.