Air Quality Awareness Week 2019: 5 Things to Know and Do

Posted by on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 in Blog

The EPA, in conjunction with its partners in the AirNow program dedicated to collecting and reporting air quality data, has announced the dates for Air Quality Awareness Week 2019. This year’s annual event, which will take place April 29-May 3, 2019, will focus on the theme ‘Check the AQI and Get Outside.’

Intended to encourage people to be aware of the air quality index and enjoy time outside when the air quality is best, the week will feature events around the country. Each day of the week will have its own emphasis. In response to this important educational opportunity, Providence-Oris has put together five things you should know and do based on the theme for each day of Air Quality Awareness Week 2019.  

Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 Day 1: Heart and Lungs

What to Know: Pollution is linked to heart disease and stroke.

In 2004, the American Heart Association officially linked pollution and cardiovascular disease. While this link does not negate other contributors, such as genes, it does indicate that poor air quality can increase your chances of experiencing cardiovascular disease.

Pollution negatively impacts health because the tiny particles create inflammation in the lungs and heart that, over time, can contribute to heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular problems. And, what you need to know during Air Quality Awareness Week 2019, is that, while certain populations (such as those who already have cardiovascular disease or the elderly) are especially at risk, pollution can contribute to health problems in anyone. 

What to Do: Avoid activities in areas and at times when pollution is at its worst. 

The best course of action to avoid the negative impacts of pollution on your heart and lungs is to avoid pollution. One easy way to determine how much pollution is in your air is to consult your Air Quality Index. This index provides a number for your area that indicates how much pollution is present. Using the AQI to determine when to go outside for your activities and when to stay inside can help you avoid times of greatest pollution.

Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 Day 2: Wildfires and Smoke

What to Know: Smoke from wildfires can produce the same health effects as other pollution.

During Air Quality Awareness Week 2019, one thing you should know is that, while the devastation wreaked by wildfires in terms of loss of life and property damage is enormous, these fires also have the ability to impact your overall health. In fact, wildfires introduce particulates and smoke into the air that can impact your health in much the same way as other types of pollution can. For example, wildfire smoke can irritate the heart and lungs, exacerbate heart disease, trigger asthma attacks, and more. 

What to Do: Stay inside. 

If a wildfire introduces smoke into your area, your best course of action, barring evacuation, is to stay inside. Close all doors and windows, run an air conditioner to cool your home instead of fans, and avoid burning fireplaces or candles that will increase the smoke pollution indoors. And, if you are unsure how much of an impact wildfires are having in your area, you can consult your AQI or visibility reports. 

Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 Day 3: Air Quality Index and Sensors

What to Know: The Air Quality Index provides a snapshot of the air quality in your area. 

One of the primary tools the AirNow group uses to represent the air quality in any area is the Air Quality Index (AQI). This index, which is the primary focus of Air Quality Awareness Week 2019, rates the presence of five types of pollutants (ground-level ozone, particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide) on a scale of 0-500. 

Levels of 50 or below are considered good. Levels between 50 and 100 are considered moderate. A level of 100 is considered the acceptable limit by the EPA. Levels above 100 are considered, first, hazardous to sensitive populations, then hazardous to everyone. 

What to Do: Utilize the AQI to determine your level of outdoor activity. 

The AQI can be a valuable tool when you are choosing your level of outdoor activity on a certain day. For example, perhaps you suffer from asthma. Knowing the pollution levels can help you prevent an asthma attack. The AQI can help you make safe choices about when the best times of day are to be outside. 

Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 Day 4: Air Quality and Your Community

What to Know: Air quality varies from community to community. 

One of the tricky aspects of pollution is the fact that it can vary widely from community to community. Your community, for example, may be inundated with emissions from a nearby power plant, while the next town over is free of the smog. Knowing the air quality of another area, therefore, generally tells you little about the quality of air where you live. 

What to Do: Familiarize yourself with the air quality in your community. 

Thanks to the variability of pollution from place to place, it is important for you to be familiar with the air quality in your community. For example, do you know where the power plant’s emissions go? Do you know how that intersection affects your community? Can you locate the AQI of your area? Use Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 to gain this information and become better equipped to protect yourself against pollution. 

Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 Day 5: Air Quality Around the World 

What to Know: Global pollution is a local concern. 

Of course, you cannot focus only on the air quality in your own community. Global pollution is also a relevant concern for everyone. For example, certain types of pollution, such as the emission of greenhouse gases, is leading to global warming and the significant consequences of that warming. These consequences, such as more ferocious storms, can impact anyone anywhere. 

What to Do: Remain educated and alert for ways to help.

Remaining educated on global pollution and air quality can equip you to be aware of and take steps to help when possible. The EPA and AirNow group provide a number of resources for gaining this information. In particular, Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 should provide you with opportunities to access information and resources for understanding and responding to global air quality. 

Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 gives you the opportunity to become more aware of the importance of air quality and how to protect yourself against pollution. If you are a business that also wants to ensure you are not contributing to poor air quality, you may also want to use Air Quality Awareness Week 2019as an opportunity to purchase and use an air dispersion modeling softwareor access environmental consultingfor your business here at Providence-Oris. We can help you determine your level of emissions, come into compliance with EPA standards, and contribute toward better air quality for all.