Air experts: There’s dangerous ‘tar’ in the smoke you’re breathing

If this blinding, choking fog of acrid wildfire smoke appears as dark and dangerous to breathe as anything you can remember, you’re right.

Pollution experts with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency tell us this enormous toxic cloud we’re living in is historically bad.

“Right now, the conditions are the worst that I’ve seen in the agency in ten years, and the worst in twenty years since I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest,” said Dr. Phil Swartzendruber, who added something even more disturbing: That thick pungent smoke we’re breathing is not just made of tiny particles of ash in the air. It’s something even more dangerous, from wood that’s not completely burned.

“This is like a tar essentially, like tar and creosote that might collect in your chimney,” Swartzendruber said.

The same thing clogging fireplace chimneys is, on the microscopic level, what you’re breathing.

“That’s essentially what the smoke is,” he said. “That is what’s getting deep into the lungs and penetrating into the respiratory system and that can aggravate that system. It can cause a stressor on the heart and the lungs.”

Seattle will not even give you the option of going to a park or a beach, or even launching your boat on the lake this weekend.

“Because of the air quality and the hazards it presents to all of us, all Seattle parks, beaches, boat ramps and playfields will be closed through Sunday,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Experts tell KIRO-7 no exposure to this kind of smoke is safe, but it’s especially unsafe for pregnant women, seniors, children, and anyone with heart disease or upper respiratory issues.

“We’re staying inside this weekend,” Swartzendruber said.