Cool EPA Website Tracks Air Quality – And It’s Asthma Awareness Month

Last Week the EPA observed Air Quality Awareness Week. We nearly missed it, but there are a couple of things we learned last week that we wanted to pass along. The first thing we wanted to share was a link to a cool website called Air Now, www.airnow.gov that tracks air quality across the U.S. in real time. It’s like Doppler Radar for air quality. Today for instance you could see that Atlanta, GA is going to be a rough place for people with allergies.The map is actually tracking AQI or the EPA’s Air Quality Index which tracks for five air pollutants regulated by the EPA: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. There are six common air pollutants that the EPA highlights on its website if you include lead.

A major component of Air Quality Awareness week is educating people on actions they take to help improve air quality, especially on days when ozone is expected to be unhealthy. They include:

  • Conserve electricity and set your air conditioner at a higher temperature.
  • Choose a cleaner commute—share a ride to work or use public transportation. Combine errands and reduce trips.
  • Defer use of gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment for later in the day, or for days when the air quality is better.
  • Refuel cars and trucks after dusk.
  • Limit engine idling.
  • Get regular engine tune ups and car maintenance checks (especially for the spark plugs).
  • Avoid spilling gas and don't "top off" the tank. Replace gas tank cap tightly.
  • Properly dispose of household paints, solvents and pesticides. Store these materials in airtight containers.
  • Paint with a brush, not a sprayer.
  • Buy low VOC paints for indoor and outdoor painting jobs.

According to the EPA, “ozone forms when two key pollutants, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) “cook in the sun.” These pollutants are precursors to ozone formation, meaning they must be present in the air for ozone to form…Weather plays a big role in the levels of ozone and particle pollution in your community. Sunlight and heat, for example, promote ozone formation. Light winds and temperature inversions both can keep pollution from dispersing. And depending on its direction, the wind can bring in more pollution – sometimes from hundreds of miles away. Geography can affect pollution levels too; mountain ranges, such as those in southern California, can prevent pollution from dispersing.”

Air Quality Awareness Week is the beginning of Asthma Awareness Month which is also observes in May. Asthma, as most everyone knows, is a growing problem affecting  1 out of every 10 school aged children. The EPA also reports that over 13 million people reported having an asthma attack last year.

They listed five steps people can take to help prevent asthma attacks:

  • Take it outside. One of the most common asthma triggers in the home is second hand smoke. Until they can quit, people should smoke outside, not in their home or car.
  • Play it safe. Ozone and particle pollution can cause asthma attacks. People should check the Air Quality Index (AQI) to view reports of unhealthy levels.
  • Keep it clean. Dust mites are also triggers for asthma. For dust mite control, cover mattresses and pillows with allergen proof covers and wash sheets and blankets once a week in hot water.
  • Stake your claim. Household pets can also trigger asthma. People should keep pets out of the bedroom and off furniture.
  • Break the mold. Mold is another asthma trigger. The key to controlling mold is controlling moisture. People should wash and dry hard surfaces to prevent and remove mold, and should replace moldy ceiling tiles and carpet.

You can learn more by visiting EPA.gov.

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