Persons with Pre-Existing Health Conditions Urged to Avoid Smoke from Albany Warehouse Fire

Air Sampling Reveals No Significant Levels of Toxic Chemicals, but Particulate Matter Can Irritate Respiratory Conditions

ALBANY, NY (Oct. 23, 2010) – State health officials reported today that tests of air quality conducted by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) in and around the plumes created by the Albany Central Warehouse fire indicate no significant levels of toxic chemicals. They cautioned, however, that fine particles often contained in smoke may produce or worsen symptoms in individuals with chronic respiratory disease or cardiovascular conditions.

DOH conducted tests on air samples collected late Friday night from neighborhoods surrounding the fire in response to a request from Mayor Jerry Jennings. DOH's Wadsworth Center tested the samples for volatile organic compounds, including petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, chlorinated solvents and freons. Testing results did not find the levels of those chemicals to be significantly higher than what would be expected in normal urban ambient air. One sample taken closest to the thickest smoke was slightly above normal ranges.

"I want to thank DOH's emergency response team and laboratory staff for their quick response Friday night and this weekend to monitor air quality in and around Albany," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D.

DOH collected additional air samples today from neighborhoods in Albany and Rensselaer counties. The results of those tests will be available Sunday.

State health officials warn that fine particles contained in the smoke may contribute to poor air quality in areas downwind of the fire. Caution is especially advised for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and those with heart and other cardiovascular conditions, as fine particles can aggravate those conditions. DOH is collaborating with the Albany County Health Department and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to monitor air quality for particulate levels.

Respiratory symptoms from exposure to smoke may include shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing. People experiencing symptoms, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions, should contact their health care provider.

Staying indoors and keeping windows closed may help to reduce exposure and alleviate symptoms.