Check Your AQI IQ: It’s Air Quality Awareness Week

After the winter that felt like it would not end, the weather is finally warming up in many parts of the country. And now that we can get outside without freezing, many of us are exercising more and sending our children out to play, a step that’s great for improving our health. But there’s another step we can take to protect our health, and this week is the perfect time to start: That’s paying attention to air quality.

This week is Air Quality Awareness Week  – the week each spring when we join with our partners at the CDC, NOAA and at state, local and tribal air agencies to remind people to use the Air Quality Index (AQI)  to reduce their exposure to air pollution. Even for those of us who check air quality regularly, this is a good time to refresh our knowledge of how to use the AQI to plan our outdoor activities. When air quality is good – get outside and play or exercise. When it’s not, change the type or length of your activity, or plan it for a day or time when air quality is expected to be better.

And it is getting better. Thanks to our work under the Clean Air Act, and the work of our partners, air quality in the U.S. has improved dramatically in the past four decades: emissions of six key pollutants have dropped more than 70 percent, while our population has grown, we’ve driven more, and our economy has continued to expand.

Yet in 2012, more than 140 million people still lived in counties with air quality concentrations above at least one national air quality standard. The health effects that can occur because of that pollution include: heart attacks, asthma attacks, and strokes, among others. This is why EPA, state, local and tribal agencies, and businesses and individuals across the country are taking steps to reduce emissions of harmful air pollution.

You can help, too. Make a commitment to your health this week: Brush up on air quality issues where you live. Get involved. Take steps to reduce your own contribution to air pollution. Or learn more about more about air quality and health at 2 p.m. this Thursday, May 1, by joining EPA and CDC experts for a Twitter chat on air quality and asthma. To join in the conversation follow the #asthma hashtag, @EPAlive, and @CDCenvironment

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