Summer is in full swing and the weather is hotter than ever! Warm weather means many of us are taking advantage of being outside at every chance we have. Though the summer weather is enjoyable, it can also have a negative effect on our environment and cause there to be air quality advisories. Have you ever heard of these?
While driving down your local highway you may have noticed a warning sign about the air quality in your area on that specific day. Air pollution control agencies can call for Air Quality Action Days when the air quality is forecasted to be at unhealthy levels; this is also (most commonly) known as Code Orange. Code Orange is when members of sensitive groups may experience health effects due to the weather. It is not likely that the general public will be affected under this code unless another color code is issued as well. However, orange, is the most common advisory. These types of days are declared when weather conditions and air quality data cause concern for high levels of ozone and fine particulate matter. Recently, standards have become stricter which has caused us to see a higher number of advisory days this summer.
In situations like this, those who are sensitive to the specific pollutant that is causing the warning, should reduce the amount of exposure time outdoors. Air Quality Action Days happen when ozone (a gas found in the air) and particulate pollution is higher than usual and can be hazardous to our health. One of the reasons these days happen more often in the summer is the hot weather, when ozone tends to be higher. Though not as likely, ozone can also be high outside of the summer season.
AQI (Air Quality Index) is a term used by the EPA that describes how clean or polluted our air is, and how that level of pollution can affect our health. The AQI is calculated using 5 key air pollutions regulated by the Clean Air Act; these pollutants are ground level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Each of these pollutants has their own individual AQI standard to protect our health. The two that can cause the greatest threat to our health is ground level ozone and particulate matter, which makes these the most common cause of Air Quality Action Days.
You can help keep your air clean
What can you do to help the air? A LOT! Take a look below:
- Carpool or use public transportation
- Keep your vehicles properly maintained
- Fill your gas tank after dusk
- Be sure to tighten your gas gap securely
- Limit vehicle idling
- Use environmentally safe cleaning and painting products (low VOC)
- Conserve electricity when possible and use energy efficient appliances
- Deter from using aerosol sprays or cans
- Have your in-home heating system cleaned and checked regularly
- Avoid using pesticides for lawn and gardening
- Trash and wood should not be burned
- Purchase a household air purifier – see Austin Air’s products page to order
Your local news and radio stations will be your number one source for learning about Air Quality Action Days. Interested in learning more? Air Now and the EPA work together to provide you with information about the air and how it can affect your health. At the top of the page you can even type in your zip code to learn about your local, current air quality conditions. Now get outside and enjoy the rest of your summer!