During the blazing days of summer, local television and radio commentators will often announce a local Air Quality Advisory, cautioning people to remain indoors if possible as the air is dangerously polluted.
Do you know what causes an air quality alert, and what it means for you and your family?
An Air Quality Advisory is a warning that air pollution levels are high. Several things contribute to air pollution such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and lead, but the two most significant threats to public health are:
There are also different air quality alert codes. The Air Quality Index (AQI) reports daily air quality. The index advises you of how polluted the air is and the health effects that might concern you. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established national air quality standards and calculates the AQI for the air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act.
The EPA uses a color-coded system, assigning a different color to each AQI category. Color-coding makes it easier for the public to visualize when air pollution has reached unhealthy levels, and what the effects might be when you reach a certain color level.
If you hear an air advisory, reduce exposure by staying indoors with the windows tightly shut.
If you do venture outside, limit your time outdoors, and restrict strenuous activities. Keep windows in your car closed to avoid exposure to pollutants. Consider wearing a face mask, especially if you are doing yard work or other activities where you are exposed to additional allergens.
If you have asthma, always keep your rescue inhaler with you and take any preventative medicines prescribed by your physician.
Stay hydrated and breathe properly. Breathe through your nose, because it is the nose’s job to filter the air. You bypass this filtration system when you breathe through your mouth.
Invest in an air purifier. Even indoors, although the air may look clean, it can be saturated with microbes and dust particles. These microscopic air particles enter your lungs and throat, aggravating respiratory issues like asthma and COPD.
Air quality varies around the United States. Ozone, for instance, can pose a significant problem for those living with asthma and is more prevalent in urban areas. Visit airnow.gov, a website developed by federal, state and local agencies to monitor air quality. You can also download their app. The EPA also has a feature on its website called My Environment, which provides you with an air-quality forecast for your zip code.
There are lots of things you can to that will help reduce air pollution and keep the air we breathe cleaner, not only on an Air Advisory Day but every day!