What’s in your air? Air Quality Awareness Week

Posted on April 28, 2017 by kerri
Used under a CC0 license.

If you use a weather app, or occasionally have the weather network on repeat, you may have heard numbers being thrown around about the Air Quality Index, or AQI. In the United States, you can view your AQI report on a map by clicking here.

The US AQI system scores are quality on a scale from 0 to 500. Kind of like a golf game, you want the score to be lower, as this is when air is the least polluted and hazardous. The AQI system is color coded to enable a more visual system to be understood more readily by users [1].
GOOD – green. Score: 0 to 50: Should not pose risk to health, including for those with chronic illness.
MODERATE – yellow. 51 to 100: People who are very sensitive to air pollution due to chronic illness may experience some health detriment.
USG (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) – orange. 101 to 150. People with certain medical conditions that may make them more sensitive to air pollution should avoid outdoor activities.
UNHEALTHY – red. 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience health issues caused by pollution in the air. Use caution when outdoors.
VERY UNHEALTHY – purple. 201-300. Everyone may experience serious health effects.
HAZARDOUS – maroon. 301-500. The entire population is likely to experience health impact of extremely unhealthy air quality, and this is likely declared a State of Emergency.
While we cannot control our air quality, there are some populations that need to pay greater attention to the Air Quality index than others. People with certain medical conditions, like asthma, cystic fibrosis, COPD and heart disease, can experience negative health events from exposure to poor air quality. For those with lung disease, air pollution is more likely to trigger negative reactions such as inflammation and lung construction (bronchospasm). For people with heart disease, air pollution can lead to blocked arteries when oxygen from polluted air is pumped by the heart around the body—an increase in both heart attack (of varying types) and heart failure are attributed to increased air pollution (poor air quality). [2] As well, nitrous oxides in the air we breathe are more likely to cause alterations in heart rhythms—cities with higher circulation of nitrous oxide in the air have greater prevalence of cardiovascular disease; both short and long term health hazards of nitrous oxide exposure have been documented to cause heart problems. [2]. Research demonstrates that heart attack incidence increases when particulate matter in the air increases. [2]
On days where air quality is low, it is recommended that you stay inside if you have chronic health problems that may be exacerbated (made worse) by poor air quality. It is also important to avoid outdoor exercise if air quality is poor, as this may cause a quicker decline in symptoms than exposure to poor air quality alone. [3]
Larger cities are more prone to poor air quality episodes more often, especially in summer months when it is hot and humid—keep an eye on the Air Quality Index this week, for Air Quality Awareness Week, and make it a habit to stay informed. If you have chronic disease that is exacerbated by poor air quality, wearing medical identification jewelry is important. You can purchase asthma medical ID and heart disease medical bracelets from our website, custom engraved to fit your needs.

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