Spring in Georgia is a wonderful time of year. If you have kids that play outdoor sports or if you participate in any of our plentiful outdoor activities, you know the regular drill. Monitor the forecast and make a rain contingency plan.
But it is not only the chance of rain that is a factor for our outdoor activities. It is the air quality.
Poor air quality can aggravate a host of health problems such as Asthma, heart conditions and other respiratory conditions. Seniors, children and those with compromised immune systems should be particularly careful.
Air pollution is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and exposure to fine particles has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and early death in people with heart disease. In fact, poor air quality is responsible for an estimated 60,000 premature deaths in the United States each year.
Air quality has improved significantly since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970; however, there are still many areas of the country where the public is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollutants. As of the most recent re-evaluation in September 2013, much of the Atlanta metropolitan area falls into that category and Newton County is still considered within the nonattainment area of Atlanta. So we need to pay attention.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted our air is and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
State and local agencies use this guidance to issue air quality forecasts and Air Quality Index predictions in their jurisdictions. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources handles ours and the air quality forecast can be found at: airnow.gov.
When the AQI forecast reaches Code Orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) make some adjustments to your outdoor plans.
• Instead of running, go for a walk.
• Instead of moving a lot of heavy mulch, weed.
The key is to reduce the amount of pollution you breathe in when you are outside. And it is always a good idea to exercise away from busy roads if you can: particle levels generally are higher in those areas.
Doing some activities such as walking, running, gardening, bicycling, playing tennis, golf, or a team sport are just a few of the ways you can help stay healthy while enjoying the outdoors. And, these days when it’s not raining, isn’t it just wonderful to be outdoors?
Before you go out, check the air quality forecast so you can, literally, breathe easy.
Air Quality Awareness Week is Monday, April 27 through Friday, May 1, 2015. Information, educational materials, and tips can be found at: epa.gov/airnow/airaware.