[May 02, 2013]CHICAGO -- The Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Partners for Clean Air
have teamed up to promote National Air Quality Awareness Week in
Illinois. The week of April 30-May 3 has been designated to help
educate the public about air quality concerns and encourage
residents to regularly check their local air quality forecast.
While Air Quality Awareness Week is a
national effort, state and local programs provide Illinois residents
with information and choices specific to the state and its
communities. Illinois residents are encouraged to become "aware
about air" during the week, and each day focuses on a different
outdoor air quality topic:
Throughout the year, there are days when air quality could pose
potential health risks such as asthma and lung problems due to
weather conditions, high ozone levels or other conditions. Air
Quality Awareness Week aims to educate people across Illinois about
the causes of outdoor air pollution, what people can do to protect
their health when air quality is poor, and how they can reduce
pollution by making simple choices in their daily lives.
"Air Quality Awareness Week will educate Illinois residents on
the importance of improving our air quality while providing them
with information they need to make informed decisions to protect
their health," said Illinois EPA Director Lisa Bonnett.
Bonnett encourages Illinois residents to sign up for Illinois
EnviroFlash, a free service through a partnership with U.S. EPA that
allows anyone to receive air quality forecasts for the following day
via email, text message or Twitter. Users can customize the service
to notify them when certain air quality forecasts are expected.
Illinois EnviroFlash also provides "real time" and Air Pollution
Action Day alerts, when air pollution levels reach unhealthy levels.
Air pollution levels often increase between early May and late
September. Air pollutants, specifically ozone and particulate
matter, can affect a person's respiratory and pulmonary system.
Groups most susceptible to the risks include children (especially
those with asthma), older adults, people with respiratory or heart
diseases, and people who are active outdoors.
Some ways to protect your health include shifting activities with
higher exertion to cooler times of the day, reducing exertion or
limiting the time of exposure. In addition, individuals are
encouraged to follow tips to reduce contributions to air pollution.
Here are some tips:
transit, carpool, walk or bike.
When driving, try
to plan trips for the evening (when sunlight is not as strong),
consolidate destinations and
Turn off and
unplug electronics when not in use.
properly set a programmable thermostat.
Two of the most common pollutants in the U.S. -- ozone, sometimes
called smog, and particle pollution -- pose health risks for
hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Are you one of them?
Many of us are. If you're very young, if you're a senior citizen, or
if you're somewhere in between, you may be at increased risk from
ozone or particle pollution exposure.
That's bad news. The good news? You can do something about it.
You can take steps to reduce your pollution exposure. Use the Air
Quality Index to adjust your outdoor activities so you can reduce
the amount of pollution you breathe in while still getting exercise.
It's not difficult -- and your health is worth it.
Many people think of air pollution as a big-city problem, but
that's not always the case. Ozone and particle pollution can be
problems in rural areas -- in both the summer and winter.
Ozone-forming pollution can travel long distances on the wind
before reacting in the sun to form ozone. Ozone itself also can
travel long distances, so even rural areas can have high ozone
levels. And while ozone is a warm-weather pollutant in most areas,
wintertime ozone episodes have been increasing in recent years in
some Western states.
Fine-particle pollution can come from sources such as fires,
tailpipes or woodstove chimneys. But it also forms when emissions
from power plants, highway vehicles or industrial activities
chemically react in the atmosphere. Depending on where you live,
particles can be a problem at any time of year. Keep track of air
quality where you live:
Wednesday: Get Outside! And Use the Air
Think you have to stay inside on a Code Orange AQI day in your
area? You may be surprised to learn that isn't usually the case.
Think of the Air Quality Index like a weather forecast -- and use it
to plan your outdoor activity.
Finding the AQI is easy. It's available on the Web, on many local
TV weather forecasts and through free email tools and apps. Once you
have the forecast for your local area, check the health
recommendations to see how to reduce the amount of pollution you
AQI recommendations apply to other outdoor activities, too --
including activities like working in the garden. So on a day with
poor air quality, try to do less strenuous chores, like weeding
instead of moving heavy mulch.
Most of the time, changes like these will help you reduce your
Thursday: Help Your Neighbors -- Increase
Air Quality Awareness Where You Live
The Illinois Air Quality Flag Program improves awareness of
outdoor air quality -- and helps teachers and coaches ensure that
children get plenty of physical activity, while protecting their
health when air quality is poor. Children (including teenagers) are
at greater risk from air pollution because their lungs are still
developing, they are more likely to be active outdoors, and they
breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. They're also
more likely to have asthma.
Participating is simple. Each day, school officials raise a flag
that corresponds to the color of that day's Air Quality Index
forecast. Then, using the program's activity guidelines, schools can
modify outdoor activities or move them inside if needed. For more
Illinois Partners for Clean Air will provide Air Quality Flag
Program Kits to Chicago-area schools at no cost. Schools outside the
Chicago metropolitan area can purchase the five color-coded flags
for a nominal cost from numerous flag vendors.
The AIRNow website, developed by a group of government agencies,
provides reports on air quality. Websites can add the current air
quality information to their site by downloading a free widget. Get
it at http://bit.ly/airwdjt.
Friday: Do Your Part -- Reduce Your
Contribution to Air Pollution
Nearly every day, each of us contributes a little to air
pollution -- but we don't always realize it. Take a few minutes
today to think about what you do that contributes to air pollution.
Then come up with a plan to make some changes.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Think about that
light switch -- and the thermostat.
Your electric bill isn't
the only reason conserving energy is a good idea. Power plants
produce pollutants that form both ozone and particle pollution.
So make it a habit to turn off lights you're not using, and set
your thermostat a little higher this summer. You'll help reduce
pollution -- and you'll save money, too.
from your car.
Take public transit whenever possible.
Don't drive to
Join a car pool or van pool, or take public
transit (you'll save money, too).
Keep your car
Just replacing a clogged air filter can lead to
a savings of 55 gallons, or at least three trips to the gas
station over a year. Learn more:
Fill your gas tank
during cooler evening hours in warm weather.
gas, don't "top off" the tank, and replace your gas tank cap
Follow local recommendations on Air
Pollution Action Days.
Not sure how to find out if today is
an Action Day where you live? Sign up for Illinois EnviroFlash
to get local air quality messages sent straight to your email: