Breathing uneasy: Wood smoke, particulate make winter air dangerous in frigid Fairbanks

Retired Fairbanks, Alaska, teacher Patrice Lee says particulate in the smoky air outside her home is forcing her son to stay inside.

Nineteen-year-old Alex Lee has undergone multiple heart surgeries and particulate can trigger irregular heartbeat, heart attacks and other serious health problems.

The Fairbanks area has been out of compliance with national air standards for more than three years and residents experience some of the dirtiest air in the country.

In a weather phenomenon known as inversions, cold air along the ground is capped by a layer of warmer air, trapping emissions. Wood smoke put in the air by people looking to cut fuel oil bills adds to the pollution.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency says municipal and state officials must create an abatement plan or face sanctions.