« More Flow | Main | Collaborations to Inspire Dreaming Big »

April 16, 2008

Just Breathe

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993 to help protect the ozone layer. He is the National Web Content Manager.

Long view of a city on a smoggy dayI've been doing things outdoors most of my life: hiking, rockclimbing, etc.  For the past 15 years or so, I've also been playing Ultimate Frisbee, which is sort of like soccer mixed with football and basketball.  The upshot is you run.  A lot.  It's usually a race between my lungs and legs to see which will run out of juice first.

A few years ago, I found out I should be more worried about my lungs, especially since I have mild asthma (I don't wheeze so much as cough).  Running a lot can be a real problem when the air quality is bad: a lot of ozone in the air can irritate my lungs and leave me out of breath.  Note this is ozone down near the ground; the stuff up in the stratosphere protects us from the sun's ultraviolet rays

We can help you figure out when it's better to stay home with the Air Quality Index.  This handy site gives you a color-coded, clickable national map with info for many communities.  For example, the AQI is provided for "Northern Virginia," which means the DC suburbs where I live.

Try out the AQI and see if it works for you.  If it doesn't, I'm sure the folks running it would like to hear your ideas for improvement.

P.S. While you're on the Web, take a look at our Earth Day offerings.  We've got podcasts, a "widget" that lets you put a daily environmental tip on your own site, and more.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Just Breathe:


Thanks for the air quality tip. I'm a serious runner myself and I have felt what you describe here. It's true that the air quality could cause your lungs to go bad. I'll have to check out that site to verify if it's safe for me to go out now.

The AQI is a useful tool because it tells folks good days from bad days air quality wise. People should check it like they check the weather.

I recently went to a meeting on children's health where a doctor was telling asthmatic children to stay indoors since they lived in an area with bad air quality. She wasn't qualifying it on a day to day basis based on the AQI, just in a generality.

This is a double whammy since their indoor air is probably worse than the outdoor air on average and it kept them from getting exercise in the great outdoors.

GREAT post Jeffrey! Way to write in a personable voice about an issue that affects so many of us and weave in useful EPA tools to boot! A+ my friend! ;)

Mike, knowing even one person now knows about the AQI who didn't made my day!

Pat, you're 100% right - it really is a double whammy. I don't know about the indoor air quality, but losing exercise time is never a good thing.

And Kristinn, thanks! :)

The comments to this entry are closed.