Phoenix area seeing some of worst air quality ever

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The High Pollution Advisory that has been in effect all weekend has been extended into Tuesday.

"This is one of the worst air quality days we've had in years," 3TV meteorologist April Warnecke said Monday morning.

We've all seen that big brown cloud of pollution -- a nasty layer of haze --  hovering over the Valley.

"These are some of the highest numbers we have seen in that downtown and central Phoenix area," Warnecke said as she monitored the Maricopa County Air Quality Department's real-time air quality map.

The department says the air quality is some of the worst they've seen in the last 12 years.

On Sunday, Phoenix exceeded the PM-2.5 (smoke) Health Standard. In fact, it was the highest value we have recorded since our current records began in 2005 -- PM-2.5 ended yesterday with an AQI of 161, the previous record was 154 in 2011.

The Maricopa County Air Quality Department says that shooting off fireworks to ring in the new year has added to that pollution.

[RELATED: Dirty air prompts no-burn restrictions for metro Phoenix]

Today, air quality in Phoenix is very unhealthy. Concentrations of PM-2.5 across the region are in the 150 to 300ug/m3 range. These values are on track with our forecast and today we will end the day in the Very Unhealthy AQI category which has only occurred two other times on New Year's Day (2014 and 2016). As a result, the High Pollution Advisory will remain in effect today.

The air is so bad that it could affect everyone and not just people with respiratory issues like asthma.

Officials say people with heart or lung diseases, older adults and children are most likely to be affected by particle pollution.

With air quality Very Unhealthy in the Valley, EPA recommends the following: Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion. Everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.

Although PM-2.5 levels will lower heading into Tuesday, light winds and partly cloudy skies are expected, which means the air will not clear as much as we would like. That's why the High Pollution Advisory for PM-2.5 will be extended through Tuesday as, once again, PM-2.5 will likely rise above the federal health standard.

One problem is that the Valley has seen little to no wind, which has caused the air to stagnate.

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It's been getting worse during the holiday season with people burning fires in their fireplaces.

Fireworks are also a big part of the problem. Consumer fireworks don't shoot off high in the air but rather, closer to the ground, which leaves the smoke to hover.

To enforce the No Burn rule, there is a task force driving around the city, looking for smoke coming out of chimneys. If you're caught breaking the law, you could face a $200 fine. And for restaurants, the fines could reach $500.

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For the rest of the week, a ridge of high pressure will be in control of our weather. Overall, we're expecting above-average temperatures, periods of clouds from time to time and a reduction in PM-2.5 but no precipitation. Stagnation will be the primary concern and we will be watching PM-10 levels closely especially by the end of the week. 

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