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News Releases from Region 09

Arizona Wins EPA’s Air Quality Flag Program Challenge

Contact Information: 
Margot Perez-Sullivan (perez-sullivan.margot@epa.gov)
Caroline Oppleman ( oppleman.caroline@azdeq.gov)

For Immediate Release:   June 14, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO/PHOENIX – Arizona schools won the EPA’s Spring Air Quality Flag Program Challenge to protect people’s health. Schools state-wide are raising brightly colored flags to help students and members of the community be aware of daily air quality conditions. The colored flags correspond to the Air Quality Index to inform community members about air quality forecasts so they can take steps to protect their health.

The Spring Challenge aimed to increase the number of participating schools and organizations and raise awareness about the Air Quality Index colors and associated health messages. 

“We applaud Arizona for enrolling 63 new schools in the Flag Program and winning the nationwide challenge, “said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  “These flags give community members information to make smart choices about their outdoor activity levels.”

“As one of the first schools in Arizona to participate in the Air Quality Flag Program and now going on nearly a decade, our K-8 students have learned how air quality affects their daily activities and lives from the color of the flag and what they can do to protect themselves from poor air quality,” said Annette Heasman, Registered Nurse, P.L. Julian School, Phoenix, Arizona.

“Having served as the model for EPA’s nationwide Air Quality Flag Program, Arizona is proud to continue to be a leader in this effective voluntary public health program, which makes a difference in the lives of some our most vulnerable children and adults,” said ADEQ Air Quality Division Director Timothy Franquist.

Each day a flag is hoisted above schools, or other community sites, that participate. In the school setting, recess and physical education are sometimes held indoors on days with particularly poor air quality, especially for sensitive populations, like children with severe asthma. The program also contains an environmental education component with teacher lesson plans about air pollution, and the science behind air monitoring technology.

Our daily lives are affected by local air quality, which can change from day to day, season to season, and even vary depending on the time of day. The EPA’s Air Quality Index provides information about the health effects of common air pollutants, and how to avoid those effects. The flags alert people to that particular day’s air quality, so they know when to modify their outdoor activities.

“As participation in Arizona’s Flag Program continues to grow, we are hopeful that community awareness too will increase and positively impact both children’s and public health,” said ADEQ Children’s Health Program Lead Julie Finke. “Our success in Arizona is due to our community’s ongoing commitment and the tireless promotion work of our partners and local coordinators, whom we recognize and thank for their participation and efforts.”

Getting up-to-date air quality information is easy by subscribing at www.enviroflash.info or downloading the AirNow app. You can get the daily air quality forecast sent to your email, cell phone or Twitter.  This is especially helpful for those who are sensitive to the effects of air pollution, such as children, adults who are active outdoors, people with heart and lung disease, and older adults.

For more information on the Air Quality Flag Program visit EPA’s AirNow website at www.airnow.gov/flag.

For more information about the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality program, please visit:


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