Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Unhealthy Air

Alrighty then...
Last summer when I was enjoying my semi-annual 6 minute walk test at the pulmo's office, I asked him about walking outside in the summer weather. Specifically, I asked about air quality and when to be concerned.Or whether or not to be concerned at all.
His response was a measured "Well...we're fortunate in this area not to have many days rated "unhealthy", so it's more a matter of watching for excessive heat..."
Good answer.
Because every day my beagle doesn't get his walk is a day my beagle practices vaulting over my head while I'm working.

Today, however, is an Unhealthy Air Quality day according to this morning's news.
It will stay that way for the next few days.
Here's how that's determined, what it means and where you can find out what the air is like where you live:

The Air Quality Index-
The Air Quality Index, or AQI, is the standard system that state and local air pollution control programs use to notify the public about levels of air pollution.

The EPA measures the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Each of these pollutants can have significant effects on people with respiratory problems such as emphysema, asthma or other lung diseases. By knowing on any particular day what the air quality is, those with COPD can help to plan their activities so that they will not have high exposures to the unhealthy effects of pollutants.

As a quick way of knowing the air quality and what it means generally, the following scale can be used.

>Good The AQI value for your community is between 0 and 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory and air pollution poses little or no risk.
It is not necessary to modify your activities because of air quality in this range.

>Moderate The AQI for your community is between51 and 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of individuals. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.
Most people with COPD do not have to modify their activities in this range either.

>Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Certain groups of people are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects of certain air pollutants. This means they are likely to be affected at lower levels than the general public. For example, children and adults who are active outdoors and people with respiratory disease are at greater risk from exposure to ozone, while people with heart disease are at greater risk from carbon monoxide. Some people may be sensitive to more than one pollutant. When AQI values are between 101 and 150, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected when the AQI is in this range.
People with respiratory disease, the elderly and very young should LIMIT EXERTION when engaging in outdoor activities. This also holds true for individuals with heart disease.

>Unhealthy AQI values are between 151 and 200. Everyone may begin to experience health effects. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
Those with respiratory problems should AVOID OUTDOOR EXERTION. Others should limit it.

>Very Unhealthy AQI values between 201 and 300 trigger a health alert, meaning everyone may experience more serious health effects.
People with respiratory problems should AVOID ANY OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES. Others, especially the elderly and young children should avoid outdoor exertion

>Hazardous AQI values over 300 trigger health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.
People with respiratory disease should REMAIN INDOORS and not venture outside at all. Children and the elderly should also avoid any outdoor activities

>The EPA issues year-round AQI forecasts for 46 states plus the District of Columbia. Forecasts include animated pictures of ozone and particle pollution levels superimposed over a map of the U.S. The map illustrates how pollution levels change and move throughout the day. It is "real time" information, so you can see current outdoor air quality. The map is available by clicking Here. The EPA also makes it available to local weather forecasters through national weather service providers

>They also have an online brochure Air Quality Index, A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health

I guess at my house, it will be a night for ducking beagles.