Check the AQI and Get Outside!

Monday, April 29, 2019 - 8:00am

April 29th through May 3rd is Air Quality Awareness Week and here in North Carolina, it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the spring weather and our state’s many incredible natural resources.  It’s also a great time to think about our air quality and the actions we can take to keep our air clean.  

North Carolina’s air has been improving every year due to the efforts from a variety of groups and individuals.  Each day, the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) works with the state’s citizens to protect and improve outdoor, or ambient, air quality for the health, benefit and economic well-being of all. To carry out this mission, DAQ operates a statewide monitoring network to measure the level of pollutants in the outdoor air, develops and implements plans to meet future air quality initiatives, assures compliance with air quality rules, and educates, informs and assists the public on air quality issues.

Everyone has a role to play in improving air quality and for Air Quality Awareness Week, we’d like to share some of our state-wide successes as well as tips on how you can check the air quality index, or AQI, to help keep you and your family healthy this year.

But first— Where does air pollution come from?

Air pollution comes from various places, or sources: stationary sources such as factories and power plants, and smaller sources such as dry cleaners and degreasing operations; mobile sources such as cars, buses, planes, trucks, and trains; and naturally occurring sources such as windblown dust and others.  Today, our main concerns are related to two air pollutants in particular; ground-level ozone and particulate matter. These pollutants can affect everyone. They irritate the lungs and respiratory system and can even affect the heart. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, make asthma worse or even cause the onset of asthma.  

In short, air pollution comes from all of us.  Whether you are driving a car, buying a product, or turning on the lights at your house, you probably have contributed to air pollution.  

How do we reduce pollution and improve air quality?

Many actions have been taken to reduce air pollution in our state. One of the major successes in North Carolina’s effort to improve air quality was the NC Clean Smokestacks Act (CSA) of 2002. This act was a result of many different stakeholders coming together for a common good.  As a former Secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality Bill Ross noted:

“The air got cleaner, people’s health got better, and the sky got bluer.”

Teachers and students, or anyone, in North Carolina can learn more about the clean smokestacks act through our It’s Our Air ( curriculum, or check out this video.

How can I find out how good or bad the air quality is today?

The air quality in our state is improving, but we all need to be vigilant in reducing air pollution where we live, work and play to maintain those improvements and keep our air clean. So, what can you do to be aware, protect your health, and take action to reduce air pollution?  Know the code! The color-coded air quality forecast provides an index for reporting the daily air quality within a specific county or region. Basically, it tells you how good or bad the air quality is in your area. 

By keeping track of the air quality forecast on the DAQ forecast siteEPA websiteEnviroFlash, or through the AirNow App, you can protect your own health, and also the health of those around you.  

A code green forecast means it’s a great day for people of all ages to play and be outside for longer periods of times. A code orange or worse means limiting outdoor physical activities may be helpful, especially for members of sensitive groups like children, the elderly, or people with respiratory problems.  

You can also do your share to care for the air and reduce pollution. Driving less, keeping your car tuned, and using less electricity reduces the emissions from cars and power plants so that everyone can breathe easier. 

Thank you for helping us continue to improve North Carolina’s air— now, get outside and have some fun! 

#Thinkactbreathe   #AQAW2019

NC Air Awareness