Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution
|Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution
||Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion
|Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
||People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children
should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
|| 151 to 200
||People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion
| Very Unhealthy Alert
||201 to 300
||People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.
Key Facts You Should Know About Particle Pollution
Particles in the air can cause or aggravate a number of health problems and have been linked with illnesses
and deaths from heart or lung diseases.
At highest risk from particle pollution are people with heart or lung disease, older adults (possibly
because they may have undiagnosed heart or lung disease), and children whose lungs are still developing and who
are more likely to have asthma and are more active outdoors.
Particles of concern include both very small, "fine" particles (that can only be seen
through an electron microscope) and somewhat larger "coarse" dust particles. Fine particles have been more clearly
linked to the most serious health problems.
What are particles? Where do they come from?
Particles in the air are a mixture of solids and liquid droplets that vary in size and are often referred to as "particulate
matter." Some particles - those less than 10 micrometers in diameter - pose the greatest health concern because they can
pass through the nose and throat and get deep into the lungs. Ten micrometers in diameter is just a fraction of the diameter
of a single human hair. Particles larger than 10 micrometers do not usually reach your lungs, but they can irritate your
eyes, nose and throat.
Very small particles with diameters less than 2.5 micrometers are called "fine particles." They are produced any time fuels
such as coal, oil, diesel or wood are burned. Fine particles come from fuel used in everything from power plants to wood
stoves and motor vehicles (e.g., cars, trucks, buses and marine engines). These particles are even produced by construction
equipment, agricultural burning and forest fires.
"Coarse" dust particles range in size from 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter. Particles of this size are produced during crushing
or grinding and from vehicles traveling on paved or unpaved roads.
How can particle pollution affect you?
Fine and coarse particles can cause a variety of serious health problems. When exposed to these particles, people with heart
or lung diseases and older adults are more at risk of hospital and emergency room visits or, in some cases, even death. These
effects have been associated with short-term exposures lasting 24 hours or less. Long-term exposures of a year or more have
been linked to the development of lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis.
Particles can aggravate heart diseases such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. If you have heart
disease, particles may cause you to experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue. Particles have
also been associated with cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks.
Particles can aggravate lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, causing increased medication use and doctor
visits. If you have lung disease, and you are exposed to particles, you may not be able to breathe as deeply or vigorously as
normal. You may have respiratory symptoms including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.
You also may experience these symptoms even if you're healthy, although you are unlikely to experience more serious effects.
Particles can also increase your susceptibility to respiratory infections.
How can you reduce your exposure to particles?
Air pollution levels can vary throughout the day. Your local air quality forecast can tell you when particle levels are
high in your area. You can reduce your exposure to particles by 1) planning strenuous activity when particle levels are
forecast to be lower, 2) reducing the amount of time spent at vigorous activity, or 3) choosing a less strenuous activity
(e.g., going for a walk instead of a jog).
When particle levels are high outdoors, they also can be high indoors. Certain filters and room air cleaners are available
that can help reduce particles indoors. You also can reduce particles indoors by eliminating tobacco smoke and reducing
your use of candles, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. For more information on indoor air pollution and filter devices,
For your local forecast visit: EPA's Web site at: http://www.epa.gov.
- You Can Help Keep the Air Cleaner!
- Every day tips:
- Conserve electricity.
- Consider setting your thermostat a little higher in the summer and lower in winter.
- Participate in local energy conservation programs.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying home or office equipment.
- Keep car, boat and other engines properly tuned, and avoid engines that smoke.
- Car pool, use public transportation, bike or walk when possible.
- Combine errands to reduce "cold starts" of your car and avoid extended idling.
- Consider using gas logs instead of wood. If you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace insert,
make sure it meets EPA design specifications. Burn only dry, seasoned wood.
- Mulch or compost leaves and yard waste.
- Tips for days when particle pollution is expected to be high:
- Reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
- Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
- Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
- Avoid burning leaves, trash and other materials.
Office of Air and Radiation (6301A)
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