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Know Your Air - Why Checking the Air Quality Index Can Protect Your Health

Release Date: 05/17/2007
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

With the warmer months at our door step, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Weather Service remind people to be prepared if there are days when the air quality is poor. People can protect their health by taking advantage of free EPA air quality forecasts and alerts about local air quality.

May marks the beginning of ozone season in most parts of the country, and it’s important to remember that high levels of ozone can be dangerous to people’s health. The best way to prepare for these weather conditions is to check your daily Air Quality Index (AQI) and forecast conditions.

There are two ways to check air quality. Daily air quality forecasts are available at www.airnow.gov, or through EPA's EnviroFlash tool, which provides customizable forecasts and action day notifications via e-mail or pager notification. To access EnviroFlash, go to: http://cfpub.epa.gov/airnow/index.cfm?action=airnow.enviroflash

AQI forecasts are available for ozone, which occurs primarily in summertime, and for particle pollution, which can occur year-round.

The AQI is an indicator for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or dirty your air is, and what related health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience immediately, or several days after breathing polluted air, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s the middle of July or the dead of winter, the air quality outside can have an impact on you or your family’s health.

If air pollution reaches high enough levels, the air can be unhealthy for everyone, especially if you are active outdoors. Reducing exposure can be as simple as lowering the intensity of your exercise or other activities such as yard work, or rescheduling the activity for a time when air quality is expected to be better.

EPA has assigned different colors to each AQI level so it’s easier for people to understand whether the air pollution in their communities has reached an unsafe level. The lowest level “good” is represented by the color green, whereas the color red represents levels that are unsafe for everyone.

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