Air Pollution Control Program
Healthy air = healthy you.
Millions of people have asthma or are affected by respiratory ailments. Here's why according to the Environmental Protection Agency: "particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs, aggravating lung disease, triggering asthma attacks and bronchitis, and increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections. Ozone can inflame the airways, reduce lung function and make people more sensitive to allergens – all of which can be problems for people with asthma."
Heat and sunlight can mix with volatile organic compounds, such as pollution from vehicles, businesses and power plants, to produce ground-level ozone - commonly known as smog. Ozone pollution is generally more of a problem in the hot summer months, May through September. Ozone levels from the combustion of fossil fuels tend to rise mid-morning, several hours after rush-hour and peak in the late afternoon.
Smoke, soot, dust and dirt particles are included in a group known as particulate matter or particle pollution. Particulate matter (PM) is an airborne mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles made up of organic chemicals, metals, acids or dust particles. There are two groups of PM that matter the most since they can easily be inhaled. PM10, are particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers and are frequently found near roadways and dust-creating industries. Fine particles, or PM2.5, are 2.5 micrometers and smaller. PM2.5 lurks in smoke from burning oil, coal, wood or residential waste; smog, haze and vehicle exhaust.
Even with asthma, you can learn to control symptoms and still maintain active lifestyles with these three simple steps:
- Identify and avoid asthma triggers. Air pollution, smoke, mold, pests, dust mites and pet dander may trigger asthma attacks. Everyone is different so identify and avoid your personal asthma triggers.
- Create an asthma action plan. Monitor your asthma on a daily basis to determine your personal asthma triggers and formulate asthma control strategies.
- Pay attention to your air quality index. Ozone and particle pollution exposure may cause asthma attacks. When air quality is moderate or unhealthy, you may want to stay indoors as much as possible. Check your local air quality index to help plan your activities.
The Air Quality Index tracks ozone and particle pollution. This report tells you how clean (or polluted) the air is to help you understand what local air quality means in relation to your health. Each color code corresponds to a different level of health concern. The specific colors of the Air Quality Index makes it easier to understand where the air quality falls on the scale. For instance, "Good" air days are in the 0-50 range on the chart. "Moderate" is in the 51-100 range.
Using the Air Quality Index will help you plan your activities for the day, particularly on days when the air is less healthy.
- If you have asthma or other respiratory issues, limit your time outdoors when the index is orange or worse.
- Avoid prolonged or vigorous outdoor activity on days that are coded orange or worse.
- If you are going to be outdoors or doing chores outside, you may want to use an allergy face mask.
- Keep your windows closed at home or in the car to avoid smog exposure.
- Avoid high-traffic areas particularly on unhealthy air days.
- Make sure you stay hydrated.
- Always breathe through your nose so that your nose does its job to filter out pollutants.
You can check the Air Quality Index or AirNow forecasts for your area to plan ways to reduce your exposure to air pollution. The Air Quality Index reports are raw data. When looking at raw data, realize this is just an approximation as the numerical data has not been verified. You may also check the National Weather Service Air Quality Forecast Guidance.
AirNow forecast maps are created with data courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Links to AirNow maps are provided below:
You can also sign up for Air Quality Notifications. (Not available for all locations).
The Environmental Protection Agency has set certain permissible levels, known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, for six common air pollutants. These levels, or standards, are based on what concentration of a specific pollutant it would take to become a health or environmental hazard. Click on one of the pollutants below for information on the health effects of that particular pollutant:
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