Holy City Haze poses health risks

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Holy City Haze has blanketed the Lowcountry for close to a week and it's not only suffocating the Ravenel Bridge, it's suffocating Michelle Hatfield.

"It's kind of like going underwater without holding your breath," says Hatfield, who suffers from bad asthma.

Since the smoke rolled into Charleston from wildfires burning more than 300 miles away in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, Hatfield says her asthma has almost evolved.

"It's not easy breathing normally," says Hatfield. "But the air - it feels thick - it's hard to breath."

Roper St. Francis Medical Director of the Emergency Department Fritz Gitter says Hatfield isn't alone.

"Asthma's probably the most significant one that we'll see from this," says Dr. Gitter, who believes the hospital will see more cases of people being affected by the carrying smoke.

The Doctor says the smoke will also affect people with lung and heart conditions.

"The truth is you should stay indoors," says Gitter. "[It] poses... a moderately significant health risk. Certainly people that are at risk for pulmonary and cardiovascular problems need to be extra careful."

The Department of Health and Environmental Control says the smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles from the burning trees in Georgia.

DHEC's release also advises people to keep windows and doors closed, run the air conditioner and replace air filters more frequently until the wildfires are contained.

Officials say the Honey Prairie Fire has already burned more than 250,000 acres and is 60 percent contained as of Thursday night.

Copyright WCSC 2011. All rights reserved.