This Week is Air Quality Awareness Week

 Air Quality Awareness Week

May 3 through May 7, 2010 marks Air Quality Awareness Week, a partnership between the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency to raise awareness of air quality issues.  This week will highlight sources of information on air quality, resources for finding the latest forecasts and alerts for unhealthy air pollution levels, as well as steps that you can take to reduce your pollution footprint.  

Across greater Chicagoland, forecasts for air quality are produced utilizing information from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Weather Service.  Many factors go into an air quality forecast, including current and expected pollution levels, expected temperatures, winds, and moisture levels.  Forecasts of particulate and ozone levels are available from the following websites:

National Pollution Maps (U.S. EPA)
Illinois Air Quality Information (IEPA)
Indiana Air Quality Information (IDEM)
NWS Air Quality Forecasts (NOAA/NWS)


When pollution levels are currently or forecasted to reach unhealthy levels, officials with the Illinois and Indiana State Environmental Agencies will declare an Air Quality Action Day across affected counties in the National Weather Service Chicago forecast area.  When these alerts are issued, an Air Quality Alert (AQA) will be issued by the National Weather Service to inform the public about the unhealthy pollution levels, as well as to pass on information about steps that individuals can take to reduce the amount of pollution that is contributed to the environment.  These Air Quality Alerts often, though not always, coincide with the Air Quality Index reaching the "Orange" category, or "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups".  More information on the Air Quality Index is available from the US EPA's AQI Website.  


Ozone and particulate matter, the two most common forms of air pollution, can occur from natural sources such as wildfires and duststorms, but much of the pollution in our environment is the result of emissions from the cars that we drive and the energy that we use.  Each of us has a responsibility to take action to reduce our pollution footprint in an effort to create healthier air in our communities.  The following helpful tips are important to follow every day, but are especially important anytime that an Air Quality Action Day has been declared for your area: 

  • Choose a cleaner commute.  Share a ride to work, or take public transportation.  Reduce trips and combine errands. 
  • Delay using gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment until the evening or until a day when air quality is better. 
  • Limit engine idling.  If possible, park and walk into stores, banks and restaurants instead of using the drive-thru.
  • Make sure that your car is property maintained and has regular engine tune-ups.  Change the oil and air filter regularly.
  • Avoid burning leaves, trash, and other materials.  This not only contributes to air pollution and can be a fire hazard, but is also illegal in many communities.



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