Healthy Communities

Bella Vista - Trafalgar Road Fire

The Arkansas Department of Health continues to work with partner state and federal agencies and the Bella Vista community regarding health concerns about the fire that has been burning at the 8000 block of Trafalgar Rd. in Bella Vista.

This is an ongoing fire. Health recommendations will likely change as the ADH continues to receive more information and data about the air around the site.

The ADH has reviewed data related to two different issues regarding the air quality around the site. First, ADH reviewed air data collected on chemicals. Chemicals cannot always be seen or smelled. Second, ADH reviewed air quality data collected on particulate matter (PM) that can be found in smoke.

UPDATE: New data received by the ADH from the EPA on December 19, 2018 do not change current ADH recommendations. To read the conclusions for the December 19th summary, click here.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided air quality results collected from both on and around the site.

Samples from outside the boundaries of the site did not show high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), otherwise known as chemicals. Based on these samples, the general public does not appear to be at risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals in the air.

Samples collected within the boundaries of the site tested positive for benzene at elevated levels in the air. Benzene is a VOC and can cause health effects that are serious if a person is exposed to it either in high doses (a lot of it) or over a long amount of time. Because some people are exposed to this chemical through their jobs, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set exposure limits of 1000-parts per billion of benzene in workplace air (1000 ppb) for 8 hour shifts during 40-hour work weeks. 

The full press release from 11/30/18 can be found here.

The full health consultation letter provided to EPA can be found here.

Smoke and Particulate Matter (PM)

Particle pollution changes with weather conditions and over the course of a burn. The EPA provided air particulate matter (PM) monitoring in the ½ mile radius around the 8000 block of Trafalgar Road in Bella Vista. One of the readings reported to ADH on 12/12/18 showed that air quality for particle pollution was in the “Unhealthy” category. Even though air quality will likely change over time, this reading prompted the ADH to issue a Health Alert for the area around the fire. The other days of PM monitoring by EPA show levels decreased to “Moderate” or “Good.” Learn more about these categories here.

Based on the reading in the “Unhealthy” category, the ADH recommends that everyone who is near the 8000 block of Trafalgar Rd. should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. Examples of exertion are running, playing or yardwork. In particular, those who suffer from breathing issues or lung diseases [such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)]; those with heart disease; pregnant women; infants and young children; teenagers; and older adults can be more sensitive to the particulate matter in the air. If you are experiencing symptoms like ­­cough, congestion, sore throat, headache, allergies, respiratory distress, chest tightness or wheezing, please see your doctor or health care provider.

You can find the full ADH Health Alert that was posted on 12/12/18 here.

Steps to take for your health when PM is high

The EPA has developed a guide to help people make informed decisions on outdoor activity related to all PM levels. The Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution can be found here.  Additionally, in the surrounding area, conditions change depending on weather and wind direction. Breathing in smoke may cause eye and respiratory tract (throat, chest and nose) discomfort and irritation.

Whenever it is possible, sensitive individuals should consider spending less time in the area when they can see smoke in the air. When smoke or strong odors are present, people in the area may protect themselves by taking the following actions:

For additional information contact the Environmental Epidemiology Program at: adh.ts@arkansas.gov. For assistance outside of normal business hours, call 501-661-2136 and someone will call you back.

For the city of Bella Vista, regular updates on this fire can be found on the city's webpage.

For more information on this topic, please see Resources below.

Downloads & Resources
Statement on Bella Vista Air Monitoring Preliminary Findings
Frequently Asked Questions
Fact Sheets
Are Environmental Odors Toxic
Indoor Air Filtration
Protect Children from Wildfire Smoke and Ash
Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke and Ash
Reduce Health Risks In Areas with Wildfire Smoke
Reduce Your Smoke Exposure
Respiratory Protection
Protecting Children from Smoke and Particulate Matter

Public Health Accrediation Board
Arkansas Department of Health
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