HELENA-  The current weather inversion is trapping particulates in the area causing poor and unhealthy air quality for Helena.

Sensitive groups such as children and the elderly are advised to limit outdoor exposure when possible during times when air quality is at its worst.

Lewis and Clark County Environmental Health Services say that air particulates have reached a level that’s above the federal standard.

Federal regulations of particulate matter(PM) says that when PM monitoring of 2.5 micrograms or smaller reaches 35 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over an 8 hour period the air quality is considered poor.

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Once air quality reaches poor status county ordinances says solid fuel burning such as wood is prohibited and can incur a fine for multiple violations. Burning is allowed for EPA certified devices that meet an emission rate of 7.5 grams per hour for non-catalytic wood stoves and 4.1 grams per hour for catalytic wood stoves.

Modern stoves and furnaces will state if their emissions meet EPA guidelines and exemptions for some residences can be obtained through Environmental Health Services.

Environmental Health Specialist Beth Norberg says that being compliant during poor air quality times is important not only for the health of the community but also to ensure that air quality regulation remains in local government’s hands.

“If we become what’s called a nonattainment county, meaning we don’t meet federal air quality standards, then we will have state and federal agencies coming in and doing that program for us and we really don’t want that to happen,” says Norberg.

For more information about Air Quality regulations in Lewis and Clark County visit http://www.lccountymt.gov/health/environmental-services/air-quality.html