Fact Finders: Poor air quality is bad for your health. Here’s what you can do about it

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 6:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - We know the immediate dangers of wildfires, but what about the less obvious ones? Pima County has launched a clean air challenge to help people learn about the air we breathe. For instance, did you know ozone levels are typically higher April through August? And when you look at our area’s air quality index, it’s “good” about 75 percent of the time, but moderate or unhealthy for sensitive groups about a quarter of the time.

Air quality alerts are bad news for people who are vulnerable, and that may be more people than you think. We’re talking about people with lung diseases - like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema - but also infants and young children, adults over 65, pregnant women, and people with cardiovascular disease, not to mention people who work or exercise outdoors.

The latest research shows days like this can increase the seriousness of lung and heart disease. For these vulnerable folks, breathing air thick with pollutants can feel like trying to breathe through a flat straw. Wildfires can spread pollution for hundreds of miles.

Mild impacts would be irritated eyes or breathing. It certainly is more serious for people who already have illnesses like asthma. If you’re in one of the vulnerable groups mentioned in this story, you should stay indoors during an air quality advisory.

Stay in a “clean room,” meaning one with no fireplace and as few windows and doors as possible. In the long term, you may want to start using high efficiency filters in your air conditioner or a portable air cleaner. In your vehicle, close the windows and vents and use recirculate mode.