Why is air quality a health issue?
You breathe 3,000 gallons of air every day. Just as you wouldn’t drink dirty water or eat dirty food, you shouldn’t breathe dirty air. Microscopic pollutants found in small concentrations in the outside air can cause serious health impacts, especially in very small children, the elderly and those with pre-existing lung or heart ailments.
How can poor air quality affect my health?
Is our air quality good?
Different air pollutants can affect bodies differently.
Fine particulate matter (also known as PM 2.5), which peaks in the winter months and during wildfires, most commonly aggravates asthma, irritates airways and causes coughing and difficulty breathing. PM 2.5 has also been scientifically linked to premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat and decreased lung function, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ground-level ozone, or smog, peaks in the hotter months. According to the EPA, breathing smog can lead to chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. In addition, it can worsen lung ailments like emphysema and asthma, and can reduce lung function. Breathing ozone is often compared to giving your lungs sunburns as certain doses can permanently scar lung tissue.
Other pollutants, including carbon monoxide and toxins like benzene, can cause serious health issues. But PM 2.5 and ground-level ozone are two criteria pollutants for which our area has recently been out of attainment.
On most days, air quality in Yolo-Solano is good. Data shows that air quality was healthy on 362 days in 2012, and unhealthy only for sensitive groups on four days. Yolo-Solano has not experienced air that is deemed unhealthy for all residents in more than four years. (A wildfire episode in 2008 led to a brief period of unhealthy air for much of Northern California.
What does unhealthy for sensitive groups mean?
On days in which the air is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, ambient air at one or more of the District’s air quality monitors is recording levels considered to be over the federal standard for healthy air. However, air at this level has pollutant concentrations that would be expected to cause health issues for only those residents who are particularly sensitive to air pollutant. The majority of residents will not suffer any symptoms.
Who is considered sensitive to air pollution?
If the air is expected to be unhealthy, what should I do?
- Young children, whose immune systems and lungs are still developing;
- The elderly, whose immune systems may be weakened; and
- Those with lung ailments such as asthma, emphysema and COPD, who could see symptoms worsen.
If you notice difficulty breathing or irritation on days in which air quality is considered poor, you may also be sensitive to air pollution.
How can I find out when air is going to be unhealthy?
There are several ways to reduce your exposure to air pollution. Staying indoors with windows and doors closed is the best solution. If you need to be outdoors, avoid activities which will stress your lungs and cause you to breathe heavier, such as exercise and physical activity. HEPA filters are also useful to reduce pollutants’ presence inside of homes.
In any case of medical emergency, please call 9-1-1.
The easiest way to remain aware of air quality is to sign up for alerts through EnviroFlash. You can choose at which level you will receive alerts or sign up for daily forecasts. Alerts and forecasts are sent via e-mail or text message.
You can also get current air quality conditions and forecasts at ysaqmd.org. The widget can be found on the right side of the page.