facebook pixel Why You Should Care About Air Quality
Site Search
< Blog Home < Healthy Living

Why You Should Care About Air Quality

Poor air quality affects everyone—here’s what one mom thinks you should know.


Salt Lake Skyline Smog

Is it fog or smog? Is the air affecting my health? If you live in a metropolitan area, you’ve likely asked yourself these questions. I’m a mom to a preschooler who’s suffered from asthma since he was four months old, so I pay attention to air quality perhaps more than most. But whether you have a child with breathing issues, a parent with heart disease, or you just want to know if you should run outdoors on smoggy days, it’s useful—and important—to understand the basics.

The Air Quality Index, or AQI, measures current or forecasted air quality. It consists of two measures: Particulate Matter (PM) and ozone. When you hear PM, think of solid and liquid airborne particles. While tiny, these particles can be harmful to our lungs. Even healthy people may experience eye, nose, and throat irritation from high PM levels. Those with asthma tend to struggle breathing, be more susceptible to respiratory infections, and have worsened symptoms such as wheezing and coughing.

Ozone is a pungent, pale blue gas that occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere. Unfortunately, it has begun to build up at ground level, which can be bad news for our health. Like PM, it can be especially unsafe for those with asthma and lung conditions. And it’s worse for kids than adults because their lungs are still developing and they spend more time playing outdoors.

So what are safe levels? There is a simple, color-coded system used by national and local government agencies:

Green – If you see green, go ahead and play outdoors! The PM levels are below 12.

Yellow – It’s a moderate day. Unusually sensitive people should reduce time outdoors, but everyone else can continue with their normal activities. The PM level is between 12 and 35.

Orange – Children, those with heart or lung diseases (such as asthma), and older adults should stay inside on an orange day. Everyone should reduce outdoor physical activity because the PM is between 35 and 55. In Utah, children with asthma are kept inside for recess on orange days.

Red – You know what read means: Stop. It’s a strong warning that the air may be unhealthy for everyone, even those who are physically fit and healthy. Move your run to the treadmill and find indoor activities for kids, especially those with asthma. Red corresponds to a PM of 55 to 150—Utah schoolchildren are kept indoors when levels are above 90.

One last thing: Know how to check current levels. Locally, health.utah.gov is a useful resource provided by the Utah Department of Health. You’ll find current AQI conditions and lots of state resources. I also like AIRNow, an app created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I use this app to check pollutant levels while I’m out and about—it’s as easy as entering a ZIP code.

Do you have tips or stories about air quality? Join the conversation on our blog or send us a tweet—we’d love to hear from you!

 

SelectHealth may link to other websites for your convenience. SelectHealth does not expressly or implicitly recommend or endorse the views, opinions, specific services, or products referenced at other websites linked to the SelectHealth site, unless explicitly stated.

SelectHealth disclaims any responsibility for the content, information or the privacy and security policies contained on other websites, and does not exert any editorial or other control over those sites.

References:

  1. Utah Department of Public Health, Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “Air Quality and Public Health in Utah.” Web. 12 Jan. 2016. www.health.utah.gov/utahair/
  2. United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Local Air Quality Conditions.” Web. 12 Jan. 2016. www.airnow.gov

You May Also Like...

Healthcare and Insurance Basics

Why Kids Need the Measles Vaccine

For parents: Here’s what you should know about the measles vaccine.

Nutrition and Diet

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Rest assured knowing the ingredients of your salad dressing by making this pomegranate vinaigrette at home—it’s perfect to add to your favorite green leafy salad.

In the Community

How to Cope with Wildfire Smoke

Because fires are still burning in the western part of the country, it’s important to know what to do to protect you and your family.

Business

Why Transparency is Essential to Help Lower Cost of Prescription Drugs

Explaining why prescription drugs cost so much is complicated. But here’s what we’re doing to advocate for more transparency in the pharmacy industry.

Related Articles

Related Articles

Healthy Living

Tips to Help You Get the Most from Your Produce

Try these four tips to get the most out of your produce.

Healthy Living

30-minute Workouts to Stay Fit During the Holidays

If you’re looking to continue your exercise routine through the busy holiday season or if you’re just trying to balance out eating extra goodies, these 30-minute workouts are for you.

Healthy Living

What’s My Impossible? Getting in to Graduate School

Believe you can’t get into graduate school? I did too. Here’s how I overcame my impossible dream of going back to school.

Healthy Living

Keeping Your Family Safe While Traveling

Summer’s the best time for fun, but there’s a dark side to all that sun. Learn how to keep your family safe while traveling.

Post Author

Jordan Gaddis

Jordan is an accomplished copywriter and editor with ten years' experience in marketing and communications. She loves reading and writing, she is a self-proclaimed word and grammar nerd, and she loves to bake, cook, hike, and practice yoga.