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It’s Air Quality Awareness Week: Keep an Eye on the AQI


May marks the beginning of ozone season in most areas of the country -- a good time to make sure that you check your daily Air Quality Index (AQI) and forecast information to help you protect your health.

“Be Air Aware: Keep an Eye on the AQI” is the theme of this year’s Air Quality Awareness Week, April 30 to May 4. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency established the awareness week to remind Americans of the importance air quality forecasts can play in their daily lives.

“The Bush Administration has acted to dramatically improve America’s air quality by designing and developing tougher control programs for tailpipes and smokestacks,” said Bill Wehrum, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “When fully implemented, these programs will achieve significant further reductions in emissions, improving public health protection for all Americans.”

“Weather plays a key role in the levels of ozone and particle pollution in your community. Sunlight and heat promote ozone formation. Light winds and temperature inversions can keep pollution concentrated near the ground,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “NOAA is proud to partner with the EPA and state and local agencies in providing Americans with the air quality forecast information necessary to make important health decisions.”

About 300 cities nationwide issue daily forecasts based on EPA’s AQI, a simple, color-coded scale that describes a community’s air quality and what steps people should take to reduce their exposure to pollution. AQI forecasts are available for ozone, which occurs primarily in summertime, and for particle pollution, which can occur year-round.

New NOAA air quality forecast guidance, updated twice daily on, is improving state and local agency forecasters’ ability to predict the onset, severity and duration of poor air quality episodes. In addition, NOAA’s comprehensive air quality predictions provide hour-by-hour information for people in cities, suburbs, and rural areas over the entire eastern United States. Similar information is now available for the western contiguous United States as experimental products.

If air pollution reaches high enough levels, the air can be unhealthy for everyone, especially if you are active outdoors. Reducing exposure can be as simple as lowering the intensity of your exercise or other activities such as yard work, or rescheduling the activity for a time when air quality is expected to be better.


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