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

The Differences between Medicare and Medicaid

We’re explaining the main differences between Medicare and Medicaid—programs administered by the government that provide health care coverage.

Nutrition and Diet

Flourless Pumpkin Bread

This version of pumpkin bread only requires 6 ingredients—it’s made without flour and naturally sweetened with maple syrup.

In the Community

Is Your Organization Keeping Utah Healthy? Apply for Our Award

Each year, we recognize 20 organizations that are making a healthy difference in Utah to help support their missions.

Business

What Playing Football Taught Me about Business

Here’s how my passion for playing football has helped me off the field.

Related Articles

Related Articles

Healthy Living

7 Impressive Health Benefits of Honey

It’s much more than just a sweet treat!

Healthy Living

How to Manage Asthma in the Winter

Brrr! It's cold out there. And that can be a problem when you have asthma.

Healthy Living

What’s My Impossible: Going to Law School

Here are ideas that will help you make a decision—no matter how big or small—with confidence (you might even decide to go to law school).

Healthy Living

7 Surprising Ways Gardening Improves Your Health

Planting flowers might be the answer to all your aches and pains—both mental and physical.

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.