Friday, June 23, 2017

Warm weather triggers air quality advisory

Higher than normal temperatures across Washington have triggered an Air Quality Advisory for sensitive groups in the Foothills of the Cascades and the Tri-Cities this weekend.

Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, is different from the ozone in the upper atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s radiation. Ozone at ground-level can cause serious health problems.

Ozone can affect your health

You can’t see ozone, so many people do not realize the harm it can cause. People with respiratory problems, the elderly, children, and pregnant women are most at risk and should avoid being outdoors if possible.

Ozone exposure can feel like a sunburn on your lungs and lead to additional health problems such as:
  •  Difficulty breathing – Especially during strenuous activity.
  • Lung damage – Exposure can damage the lining of your lungs.
  • Asthma – People with asthma are more susceptible to attacks during high levels of ozone.
  • Lung & throat irritation – High levels of ozone can irritate your throat and chest causing you to cough. Symptoms will pass a few hours after exposure, but can continue to do harm even after symptoms disappear.

What causes ozone?

Ozone forms when sunlight chemically reacts with nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile
organic compounds (VOCs) from vehicles, factories, industrial facilities and some common household chemicals that are released into the air. The higher the temperature, the greater the risk of high levels of ozone.

How do I protect myself?

There are things you can do to reduce your exposure to ozone. If you have outdoor activities planned, do them in the morning when temperatures are lower.

You can help protect yourself from ozone by:
  • Carpooling.
  • Taking the bus.
  • Riding your bike.
  • Delay refueling vehicles and boats.
  • Put off mowing.
  • Staying indoors.
  • Avoiding strenuous activity.

You can monitor the ozone levels in your area multiple ways:
  • Download the free AirNow app for iPhone or Android.
  • Visit the AirNow website.
  • Sign up for AirNow EnviroFlash, a free service that sends air quality info to your e-mail or mobile phone e-mail address. 
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides additional Air Quality Forecast Guidance.
You can also visit Ecology’s online air quality map to see what levels are like in your area.

Commuter Resources for bus, rail and ride sharing: King County Metro Transit,  Rideshare; Sound Transit, Spoke Regional Transit, Vancouver C-Tran, Whatcom transportation Authority

By Kim Allen, Air Quality Community Outreach

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