Keeping Your Lungs and Heart Safe: Use the Air Quality Index to Protect Against Poor Air Quality

You’re exposed to air contamination any time you breathe polluted air. But when you exercise, work in the yard, or do other strenuous activities that make you breathe harder and faster, you take more polluted air into your lungs. Exposure to ozone and particle pollution is linked with a number of significant health problems. Children, people with lung disease, older adults and people with heart disease tend to be more vulnerable, depending on the type of pollution in your community. And when pollution levels reach high enough levels, the air can be unhealthy for everyone – especially if you’re active outdoors.

You can help protect yourself simply by changing the time or intensity of your exercise, yard work or other strenuous activities. Use the Air Quality Index (AQI) and daily air quality forecasts to help you determine when you need to make changes.

The AQI is a color-coded scale that tells you who needs to take steps to reduce their exposure to ozone or particle pollution – and when. If you have heart disease, for example, pay close attention when particle pollution reaches “Code Orange” levels. If you have asthma, you’ll want to pay attention at Code Orange for particle pollution and for ozone. Local air quality forecasts are available at www.airnow.gov.

How ozone and particle pollution harm your health