The Washington Post

How alert are you to air-quality alerts?

Today’s a Code Orange day in the D.C. area.

That means, according to the federal government’s AIRNow Web site, that while most people won’t likely be affected by the poor air quality, “people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.”

People with heart and respiratory ailments and even healthy kids and older people are urged to avoid strenuous activities, (including exercise) outdoors and to limit their time outside when a Code Orange alert is in effect.

As I write in the July edition of The Checklist this week, in our area air-quality codes are issued by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The MWCOG releases its three-day air-quality-index (AQI) forecast every day at 3:30 p.m. You can sign up on the site to receive those forecasts via e-mail.

To be honest, I’d never paid the AQI any heed until my editor asked me to look into them for The Checklist. That reflects my good fortune: Neither my own nor my family’s health is such that I’ve had to keep close tabs on the pollution level outside.

How about you? Do you check the air-quality code every day, at least in the summer, when air pollution in the Washington area tends to be worst? If we’re under a Code Orange or the more-worrisome Code Red (when the air outside is deemed unhealthful for everyone), what steps do you take to protect yourself and your family?


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