Reasons to Breathe Safely This Week

This week is Air Quality Awareness week sponsored by the EPA, state environmental agencies, and the National Weather Service.  It’s a reminder to everyone to pay attention to air quality.

Warm weather increases the risk of ground-level ozone and particle pollution.  When you combine the ground-level ozone with particle pollution you get SMOG.  We hear a lot about “ozone levels” but, I, for one, never heard of “particle pollution”.  

The EPA states that particle pollution “comes from fires, wood stoves and tailpipes” and is made up of tiny particles of dust, dirt, smoke, and liquid droplets in the air.  Waiting at the bus station because you are doing your part to reduce air pollution by using public transportation may be the reason you feel a little queasy.  The “cilia”, those tiny hair-like structures that line our respiratory system to keep those pesky particles is compromised on high particle pollution days.  If you’re sensitive to particle pollution due to age or a respiratory/heart problem you may find yourself coughing and having more difficulty breathing when the air quality index is higher than average.

You can always check the Air Quality Index (AQI) in your area by going or checking your local weather reports.   The healthy air quality standard, as determined by the EPA, is 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis.  The AQI chart lists Air Quality Index based on parts per billion (ppb): 1-50 ppb is good – no health impacts,   51-100 ppb is moderate – unusually sensitive people should limit outdoor activity, 101-150 ppb is unhealthy for sensitive groups, people with respiratory disease like asthma, 151-200 ppb is unhealthy  for those with respiratory disease, and they should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion, 201-300 is very unhealthy and all active children and adults, especially people with respiratory disease should avoid ALL outdoor exertion

Here are some ways to help reduce air pollution:

 Using public transportation, car-pooling or walking
Get all those errands done in one trip to reduce driving and mileage
Use a thermostat to regulate heat/air conditioning
Turn off lights, TVs and computers when not in use
Be aware of unhealthy air days and avoid using gas-powered engines (lawn mowers, chain saws, power washers, generators, compressors, and leaf blowers)

Remember that motorcycles, buses, and cars are the main source of pollutants that create smog.  Gas stations, print shops, and dry cleaners also generate smog-forming pollution.  In your own home products such as paints and cleaners also contribute to smog formation.