Enjoying a Healthy Summer - Summer Air Quality Awareness
Outdoor air quality is an important health concern. Air pollution continues to be a serious threat to the quality of the air we breathe. Air pollution can irritate, inflame, or destroy lung tissue. It weakens the lung's defenses against contaminants. Even low levels of air pollution can cause health problems.
Symptoms that may be caused by outdoor air pollution:
> Irritation in your eyes, nose and throat > Wheezing, coughing and breathing difficulties > Tightness in your chest > Worsening of existing lung disease (asthma, COPD, etc.) and heart problems
Some people can notice symptoms from air pollution right away. For example, a person with asthma might find it hard to breathe after 10 minutes outside on a smoggy day. For other people, it may take longer to notice the health effects of outdoor air pollution. Even if you can't feel a problem right away, it's still possible that exposure to air pollution is hurting your health over the long term.
The dangers of ozone
High ozone levels often are triggered by high temperatures, such as those experienced this summer. Ozone is the prime ingredient of smog. Although it occurs naturally in the stratosphere to provide a protective layer high above the earth, at ground level it can be harmful.
When inhaled, even at very low levels, ozone can cause acute respiratory problems, aggravate asthma, cause inflammation of lung tissue and impair the body's immune system, making people more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, including bronchitis and pneumonia. The best defense against high ozone levels is to stay indoors and limit activity.
The Air Quality Index- Using Air Quality Information to Protect Yourself From Outdoor Air Pollution
The Air Quality Index, or AQI, is the standard system that state and local air pollution control programs use to notify the public about levels of air pollution.This article explains how the Air Quality Index works and what steps to take to protect yourself and your family from the effects of air pollution.
The EPA measures the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Each of these pollutants can have significant effects on people with respiratory problems such as emphysema, asthma or other lung diseases. By knowing on any particular day what the air quality is, those with COPD can help to plan their activities so that they will not have high exposures to the unhealthy effects of pollutants.
As a quick way of knowing the air quality and what it means generally, the following scale can be used.
> Good - The AQI value for your community is between 0 and 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory and air pollution poses little or no risk. It is not necessary to modify your activities because of air quality in this range.
> Moderate - The AQI for your community is between 51 and 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of individuals. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms. Most people with COPD do not have to modify their activities in this range either.
> Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups - Certain groups of people are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects of certain air pollutants. This means they are likely to be affected at lower levels than the general public. For example, children and adults who are active outdoors and people with respiratory disease are at greater risk from exposure to ozone, while people with heart disease are at greater risk from carbon monoxide. Some people may be sensitive to more than one pollutant. When AQI values are between 101 and 150, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected when the AQI is in this range. People with respiratory disease, the elderly and very young should limit exertion when engaging in outdoor activities. This also holds true for individuals with heart disease.
> Unhealthy - AQI values are between 151 and 200. Everyone may begin to experience health effects. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Those with respiratory problems should avoid outdoor exertion. Others should limit it.
> Very Unhealthy- AQI values between 201 and 300 trigger a health alert, meaning everyone may experience more serious health effects. People with respiratory problems should avoid any outdoor activities. Others, especially the elderly and young children should avoid outdoor exertion
> Hazardous - AQI values over 300 trigger health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.
300 - 500 People with respiratory disease should REMAIN INDOORS and not venture outside at all. Children and the elderly should also avoid any outdoor activities
How Do You Find Air Quality Information?
> Air quality forecasts may be included as part of your local weather forecast on TV and radio, or printed in the newspaper. If it is not available, call your local media and tell them you would like them to offer this important public health service. AQI levels are also available online, through local agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) .
> State and local air pollution control agencies are responsible for collecting air quality data and reporting the AQI. You can call them for current information if it is not available through the media. A directory of state and local agencies is available from STAPPA/ALAPCO, their national membership association,
> The EPA issues year-round AQI forecasts for 46 states plus the District of Columbia. Forecasts include animated pictures of ozone and particle pollution levels superimposed over a map of the U.S. The map illustrates how pollution levels change and move throughout the day. It is "real time" information, so you can see current outdoor air quality. The map is available by clicking Here. The EPA also makes it available to local weather forecasters through national weather service providers
And finally, if you're concerned also about pollen and allergies (and many of us are)-
Pollens are a very common trigger for asthma symptoms. Generated by trees, grasses and weeds, airborne pollens are easily inhaled, especially during warm-weather months.
If you're allergic to pollen, there are a number of things you can do to stay healthy:
• Use a HEPA-filtered air cleaner.
• On days when the pollen count is high, use an air conditioner in your home and car, and also try to keep your windows closed as much as possible.
• If you usually exercise outdoors, consider exercising inside on days when the pollen count is high.
• Check the pollen count to see whether you should reduce the amount of time you spend outdoors.
• Shower and change your clothing if you've been outdoors on a high-pollen-count day.
• If there are plants in your yard that trigger symptoms, have someone remove them.
• Use a good furnace filter.
• Don't place trees or plants near windows, or near the air-intake of your furnace or air conditioner.
• Don't hang your laundry out to dry - use a clothes dryer instead.
• Don't touch plants that you think might be triggers - and if you do, wash your hands immediately afterwards.
visit this site and type in your zip code for a four day forecast of the pollen count in your town You can also sign up for a free email "allergy alert" letting you know when the allergens in your area have reached the "caution zone"