If you’ve lived in the United States for any substantial period of time, you’ve probably seen an air quality alert warning come across on your local TV or Radio station.
But, do you know what an air quality alert actually means?
Every day, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the air quality throughout the U.S. and reports it online at AirNow.gov. This data is then used to alert you on how dangerous the air around you can be to your health.
To make it easy for you to determine how bad the air quality is in your location, the EPA developed a color-coded system that relates to pollution levels.
Green – means the air is good quality
Yellow – means that the level is moderate quality and starting to get polluted
Orange – means that the air is very dangerous to breathe, especially for people with respiratory issues, including asthma and the elderly
Red – means the air quality is becoming dangers for everyone
Purple – means that the air quality is extremely hazardous for all groups and it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible
There are two things that contribute to harmful air pollution and impact the level of an air quality alert.
Ground-level Ozone – High levels are the most frequent cause of air quality alerts. It’s created by vehicle exhaust emissions and industrial fumes, as well as the chemical reaction of Nitrogen and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.
Particulate Matter – This consists of pollutants such as soot, ash, smoke, and dust. Often it’s caused by chemical processes or the burning of fossil fuels.
Orange or red alert day are usually the most common color codes you’ll see in your local area. Often a green or yellow alert is not reported since it doesn’t make much in the way of news. A purple alert is very rare but has occurred in extreme environmental pollution cases.
Here are just some of the few cities with bad air quality levels, according to recent reports.
Louisville, Kentucky (Orange)
Birmingham, Alabama (Orange)
Charlotte, North Carolina (Red)
Atlanta, Georgia (Purple)
If you’re located in an area that has an orange, red or purple alert, the best thing you can do is to stay inside and shut all windows and doors. This will help prevent any airborne pollution from entering into this area.