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Bad Air Day: Air Quality and Your Health

Did you know?

The combination of high temperatures, few winds and breezes, pollution and airborne particles can brew up an unhealthful mixture in the air, just waiting to enter your lungs. These substances can make it hard to breathe and can sap your energy. If the air quality is especially poor, it may take a few days for your body to recover. And if you’re regularly exposed to high levels of unhealthy air, the health consequences can linger for months or even years. Fortunately, air quality monitors have been set up at over a thousand locations across the country to measure the levels of major pollutants. These daily and sometimes hourly measurements are widely reported in newspapers and on TV, radio and the Web. To help make sense of the data, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a tool called the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI can tell you how clean or polluted the air is in your area so you can make informed decisions about the best way to protect your health.

Be Well-Inspired

In general, any time the AQI is forecast to hit above 100—that means code orange, red or purple—consider adjusting your activities to reduce exposure to air pollution. If you want to exercise outside on days when you’re at risk, consider reducing the time and intensity of your workout. If you usually jog for 45 minutes, try walking for a half-hour instead. Avoid jogging or biking on roads with heavy traffic. Of course, the best way to reduce exposure to outdoor air is to exercise indoors, at home or in a gym. If you plan to be outside, track air quality in your area by checking newspapers, listening to the radio or visiting online sites like If you have asthma or other lung conditions, you need to be extra cautious when air quality is poor.