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A satellite image of low-level smoke in Northern and Central California.

Towns in northern and central California registered some of the worst air quality in the world Thursday because of smoke from wildfires burning in the state, according to data from the federal government.

Why it matters: Microscopic particles suspended in wildfire smoke are a danger to the public and have been linked to decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, heart attacks and premature death in people with heart and lung disease, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The big picture: The smoke is primarily from the Caldor Fire, the Dixie Fire and multiple others burning west of Interstate 5.

By the numbers: A monitor near Placerville, California, measured hazardous air quality at 10am PT, reporting a value of 901 on the U.S. air quality index (AQI) for particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

  • Other monitors reported hazardous air quality east of Folsom, southwest of Redding and around Lake Tahoe and Lake Almanor.
Screenshot from fire.airnow.gov

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Marisa Fernandez: This is historically hazardous air quality. The AQI doesn’t even have guidance on hand for residents when PM2.5 levels go beyond 500.

  • Even healthy people can experience symptoms if they are not inside with the windows closed, such as eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing, phlegm, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
  • The situation can be more dire for people with lung or heart problems.
  • Yes, but: The extremely unhealthy air quality in the region can change rapidly, and symptoms can be temporary once it improves.
  • Those in countries like China and India and even some U.S. cities have been harmed by long-term exposure to air pollution. One study found the cumulative exposures worsened lung function and were significantly associated with increasing emphysema.

The U.S. government recommends that people reduce their exposure to hazardous air by staying indoors — preferably in a room or building with filtered air — and reducing activity levels.

Go deeper: Wildfire smoke has impacts across America

Go deeper

Oct 11, 2021 - Podcasts

The forecast for holiday travel doesn’t look good

Southwest Airlines cancelled nearly 2,000 of their flights over the weekend, citing weather and air traffic control issues. And while the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed staffing shortages in air traffic control, they also said it was likely that the airline was experiencing their own staffing problems. This could be a preview of what the holiday travel season will look like.

  • Plus, women’s heart health in a pandemic.
  • And, why retailers are side-stepping the Columbus Day sales.

Guests: Axios' Joann Muller, Marisa Fernandez, and Jennifer Kingson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Updated 44 mins ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and planned to travel to another destination afterward when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.