The importance of air quality alerts

The importance of air quality alerts (ABC7)

Hotter days are happening more frequently as we get closer to the start of summer. Often as the mercury rises, the air quality goes down. Monday and Tuesday of this week were Code Orange Air-Quality Alert Days.

"Bad air can reduce lung capacity by as much as 20 percent for people who have respiratory problems,” says Stephen Walz, the Director of Environmental Programs for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Children, the elderly and people with breathing problems, like asthma or emphysema, and cardiovascular disease, are part of what's called a "sensitive group" to air pollution.

"They feel the bad air, they feel the tightness in their chest more,” Walz explains.

When pollutants like car and lawn mower exhaust, and even fumes from pumping gas combine with hot weather and sunshine, that's when we have issues.

"There's a chemical reaction that causes ozone and the ozone is what affects our breathing,” Walz says.

After orange, the risk levels go up to red, unhealthy, and purple, very unhealthy. Fortunately, over the last 20 years, D.C.'s air quality has been improving.

"We haven't had any code red days in the last three years in the region, as the air has gotten better,” Walz says.

Doctors recommend on bad air days, the best thing sensitive people can do, is spend less time outside, and everyone should limit strenuous activity outside.

"We're trying to give people the tools to adjust what they do in their lives to not be as affected by it,” says Walz.

Clean Air Partners explain that individuals can have an impact on their local air quality. They say some ways you can help are driving less, carpooling, maintain your vehicle, refuel your car after dusk, and use an electric lawn mower.

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