Air Quality Index
What’s happening - The air quality index or “AQI” is a basic scale running from 0 to 500. The greater the level of air pollution, the greater the health concern. Due to wildfires burning in Canada, expansive plumes of smoke have descended into our area introducing small particulates into the air we breathe. As of June 8th, 2023 the fires have been minimally contained and are expected to continue burning throughout the summer. Smoke conditions in our area will continue to fluctuate over this time period. Below are some considerations for our residents.
Who’s at risk – This depends mostly on how much particulate matter is in the air. However, the American Heart Association (2020) identifies susceptible or sensitive persons as those having chronic respiratory ailments, pulmonary, or cardiovascular disease. The elderly, pregnancy, transplant patients, and those who rely on outside (ambient) air for cooling their homes are also at increased risk.
What can I do – There are a few ways to reduce exposure during this time.
- Consider moving activities indoors to the greatest extent possible, based on air quality conditions.
- Avoid prolonged physical activity or exertion outdoors. This might include considerations for keeping your pets inside as well.
- Personal protective equipment or devices - Masks may provide additional protection from particulates for those who are looking for additional protection. High quality masks such as N-95s and N-100s will provide the greatest protection from the smallest particulates.
- While in buildings, consider keeping windows closed as much as possible. When running air conditioning units, be sure to switch the air intake from outside air to recirculation. Ensure that HVAC filters are checked and changed. For homes without air conditioning, please remain cautious of rising temperatures inside.
- Portable air cleaners (PACs) are inexpensive devices which can be used in all homes and apartments with electricity. Families with additional concerns can explore the use of PACs in their homes and businesses.
- While in your vehicle, keep your windows closed, use your air conditioning to stay cool, and switch your vents from fresh air to recirculating air.
First Aid – People may experience symptoms ranging from mild coughing, sniffling, runny nose, sneezing, and a scratchy throat to trouble breathing, nausea, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
- Persons experiencing trouble breathing, chest pain, lightheadedness, dizziness, or other symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- If you find someone experiencing medical difficulty, be sure to call 9-1-1.
- For any questions regarding you or your family’s health, consult your chosen primary care provider.
Stay Informed - For up-to-date information on air quality index (AQI) reports, expected signs/symptoms of exposure, prevention measures, and more, go to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection website or AirNow.gov.
Download the app for current air quality index at your location:
- Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.saic.airnow
- Apple App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/epa-airnow/id467653238
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. (2023). Air Quality Index Reports. Retrieved from Bureaiu of Air Quality: https://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Air/BAQ/MonitoringTopics/AirQualityIndex/pages/default.aspx
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. (2023). Protecting Your Health. Retrieved from Air Quality Partnership: https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/AQPartnersHTML/health.htm
Pennsylvania Department of Health. (2023). 2023 - PAHAN - 702-06-07-ADV Air Quality Alert - Wildfire Smoke. Harrisburg: PA Dept. of Health.
Rajagopalan, S., Brauer, M., Bhatnagar, A., Bhatt, D. L., Brook, J. R., Huang, W., . . . Brook, R. D. (2020). Personal-Level Protective Actions Against Particulate Matter Air Pollution Exposure: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. American Heart Association, e411-e431.
US Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). AirNow. Retrieved from US Air Quality Index: https://www.airnow.gov/?city=Lancaster&state=PA&country=USA