Spring in North Texas is one of the best times of year, with the weather not quite too hot and not too cold. Unfortunately, North Texas also has to deal with air quality problems. As part of Air Quality Awareness Week, which takes place the last week of April, we wanted to talk about air quality, how to identify bad air quality days, and what to do about it.
Air quality is measured in an air quality index (AQI). The Environmental Protection Agency measures a number of different air pollutants. These pollutants can be dangerous to your health in high levels. The primary pollutants measured by the AQI are:
- Sulfur dioxide
- Carbon monoxide
- Ground-level ozone
- Particle Pollution
- Nitrogen dioxide
After measuring these various pollutants, the EPA assigns a value between 0 and 500. The higher the number, the more dangerous the pollution is outside. There are 6 tiers of AQI values. Good means air quality between 0 and 50. Moderate air quality is anything between 51 and 100. Between 101-150, the air quality is unhealthy for at-risk groups. 151-200 is unhealthy for the entire population. 201-300 is considered very unhealthy, and 301-500 is hazardous. Anything below 100 is considered typical and satisfactory by the EPA.
Overall, when the air quality becomes poor, most people experience watery eyes, coughing, or even wheezing. Even if you have healthy lungs, as the air becomes more polluted, you might have a harder time breathing and have respiratory irritation when you work outdoors. Pregnant women, those suffering from lung disease, people who work outdoors for a living, and children under the age of 14 are all at risk when the air quality becomes bad.
If it is a bad air day, there are a few things that you can do to deal with the pollution. The best thing you can do is to remain indoors as much as possible. If you have allergies, staying indoors can reduce the irritation. This means staying indoors with the windows closed and the air conditioning on. Asthmatics should have their inhaler or controller medication close at hand throughout the day. Additionally, some over-the-counter antihistamines can also deal with symptoms from allergens in the air.
Treat bad air quality days with care. Pollution in the air can be hazardous. Remember that not all pollution is man made, as well. Natural events like forest fires can make the air particularly dangerous. Always take a look at the AQI if you have any kind of respiratory condition or if your doctor has indicated that you are at risk for bad air quality.