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VOC levels in Marshall Fire area similar to ordinary urban air pollution, NOAA finds

NOAA used a mobile van to sample outdoor air in Louisville, Superior and affected areas of unincorporated Boulder County 11 to 14 days after the fire.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — An analysis conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found levels of volatile organic compounds in areas affected by the Marshall Fire are comparable to those of ordinary urban air pollution, Boulder County Public Health said Tuesday. 

The health department said NOAA's Chemical Sciences Laboratory used a mobile van to sample outdoor air in Louisville, Superior, and affected areas of unincorporated Boulder County 11 to 14 days after the fire.

The department said while NOAA’s measurements showed the presence of some VOC gasses, the initial analysis found they were at levels similar to normal air pollution found in and around cities.

The department said NOAA is not planning to do any more outdoor air sampling for VOCs, but the department will conduct future measurements and issue warnings if air quality changes. 

While county health officials expect VOC levels to decrease over the coming weeks, they said particulate air pollution may remain a concern for several months. They said snow is keeping potentially harmful particulates on the ground and out of the air now, but as weather changes, the affected areas will dry out.

The health department said they are developing a real-time alert platform to keep residents informed about air, water and soil quality. 

The department said while some websites and apps may report the region's air quality as good or moderate, it's important to remember they may be getting their information from monitoring devices far away from the fire area, so those readings may not be accurate.

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