Expert Answers: Is there a way to get more information about the air quality in my area?
Community Question: Is there a way to get more information about the air quality in my area?
Outdoor air pollution: The quality of the air we breathe is always a concern for people with asthma. Research shows that air pollution can worsen asthma symptoms. Symptoms typically include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Air pollution comes from many different sources, some of which occur naturally, and others which are man-made. Air pollution can include gases, smoke from fires, volcanic ash and dust particles, just to name a few. Ozone, a gas, is one of the most common air pollutants. When one thinks of ‘smog’, or haze, ozone is the main contributor. It is most common in cities where there is a higher volume of automobiles. Ozone can trigger asthma because it is very irritating to the lungs and airways. It is well known that ozone concentration is directly related to asthma attacks. Other forms of air pollution may also trigger one’s asthma. Small particles in the air can pass through your nose and/or mouth and get into your lungs. People with asthma are at greater risk from breathing in these particles, which can worsen asthma symptoms.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports air pollution levels using the Air Quality Index (AQI). AQI reports the level of ozone and other air pollutants. When the AQI is 101 or higher, it is dangerous for people with asthma. People with asthma may even have worsening symptoms with moderate ozone levels or with AQI’s between 51-100. For more information, visit their website: https://www.epa.gov/asthma
Many local weather forecasts warn the public about air quality by informing them about high air pollution days. This information can be obtained anytime at www.airnow.gov.
Indoor Air Pollution: In the workplace, asthmatics should be concerned with the environment in which they work. If you work with certain chemicals, sprayed substances, powders or known carcinogens or allergens, your risk may be high. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) acts like the EPA of the workplace, and requires employers to reduce these risks of exposure. For more information, visit their website: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/occupationalasthma/
In the home, as difficult as it may be to understand, you may be exposed to the most allergens and irritants. Home is where you cook, eat, sleep, bathe, relax and play with pets. This ‘indoor pollution‘ can pose a health risk for people with asthma. Exposure to small particles in the air or even damaging gases can occur right in your home. One must be diligent in insuring their home is as free from these ‘pollutants’ as is possible.
The National Allergy Bureau reports pollen and mold counts and you can limit your exposure on days with high pollen and/or mold counts. You can visit their various website for more information. For example, this is one that provides the pollen and spore count in the northeast: http://www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts/northeast-region
Staying attuned to the air quality and conditions around you, can help reduce exposure to the irritants and triggers that may cause asthma attacks. You can be the best advocate and supporter of the air quality you breathe.
There are several different places you can go to find information about the air quality in your area. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great website to get daily updates air quality. https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqi_brochure.index
The AQI is a daily air quality reporting index. It tells you how clean or unhealthy the air is around you.
Another great website is http://aqicn.org/map/usa/#@g/43.9277/-116.9104/5z
It gives you real time air quality (AQI) tracking with a nationwide interactive map.
Response from Lorene Alba, AE-C:
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a number that is used to let the residents know how much pollution is in the air in their community. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses the AQI to rate pollution in five levels; good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups (such as those with asthma), unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous. It’s always a good idea before heading outside to check the AQI in your area. If the AQI forecast is not good – moderate, you may want to reconsider spending long amounts of time outside. If possible, keep your windows closed at home and in the car. You can check out the AQI forecast at www.airnow.gov. There are also many free, smart phone apps that provide local, up-to-date air quality information.
If you have allergies consider checking the day’s pollen count at www.pollen.com or use the allergy tracker feature at www.weather.com. This can help you decide if you need to take your allergy medicine or pack a few extra tissues.
Yes. airnow.gov is a good website. If you’re looking to learn what today’s pollen count in your area is, you can check out websites like pollen.com. Basically, all you need to do is type in your zip code and the website does the rest of the work.