Starting mid-May through the beginning of September, there is a greater chance of having an Air Quality Action Day (we had a couple days in June already). Air Quality Action Days are declared when the ozone and particulate matter in the air reaches levels that are Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Code Orange) or higher. A Code Orange means that people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone and the presence of particles in the air.
According to airnow.org, exposure to unhealthy levels of ozone can have serious health effects. It can irritate the respiratory system, airway irritation, throat soreness and coughing, and chest tightness. It also affects lung function making it difficult to breath.
Children exposed to high levels of ozone are more likely to suffer aggravated asthma symptoms, asthma attacks, inflammation and lung tissue damage, even permanent lung damage.
Most people are not adversely affected by the conditions, but it is good to be cautious and make sure children playing outdoors are not having trouble breathing and that seniors have a place to go where there is air conditioning.
If you are wondering why this happens, the answer is pollution. And transportation is one of the largest sources of air pollution in New Jersey, responsible for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. (http://www.nj.gov/dep/sage/ce-ggi.html)
What can you do to reduce the level of pollution?
First, the less you drive and the cleaner and a more efficient vehicle you drive the less air pollution you create. Carpooling, vanpooling, taking public transit, combining trips, and driving fewer miles can help curb the level of emissions. GMTMA can help you find alternate commuting solutions and even create a personalized transportation plan. You can find out more at gmtma.org
Second, don’t idle, turn of your engine if stopped for more than 10 seconds, to avoid CO2 emissions and getting a ticket.
Third, check AIQ Index and see if it is an Air Quality Action Day. There are other things you can do on Air Quality Days to help the air; you can find a cheat sheet here.
To receive Air Quality Action Day Alerts by email go here or follow us on Twitter @gmtma for timely updates.