Over the last several days after last weekend’s record cold and snow, the air quality in the Missoula Valley deteriorated, according to Missoula City County Health Department Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield.

“Interestingly enough, the fog has done us a good service,” said Coefield. “But what we've been coping with for the last several days has been some pretty stagnant air conditions where, thanks to a high pressure ridge that settled over the area and really strong inversions, we've been seeing pollution building up in the Missoula County valleys, really all week, and by Wednesday, we were actually we're getting kind of close where we would have to call an air quality alert.”

Coefield said primarily the polluted air in the valley is self-inflicted.

“Right now the pollution we have is pollution we are making,” she said.  “It's human created pollution from wood stoves, fireplaces, campfires outdoor burning and vehicle use. We did restrict outdoor burning back starting on Tuesday of this week because we saw this coming, but we're still having a lot of other activities that produce particulate pollution, and because it's human created, that means we have the opportunity to also stop making so much of it.”

Coefield said the freezing fog is actually helping the air quality at this time.

“When you have a freezing fog situation, sometimes it can actually pull the particulate out of the air,” she said, and that's what we have seen today. We've actually had some improvement in air quality this morning, where we aren't pushing up against that alert level right now, but we still don't have great air. It's still in the moderate air quality category, and as the fog dissipates, we may see those particular concentrations build up again.”

You can check the Missoula Air Quality Conditions here.