Steps to take on questionable air quality days

WASHINGTON — The air quality forecast for Thursday is right on the tipping point between yellow and orange — between “moderate” and “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

On air quality action days, you can make a difference.

“It helps our children; it helps our older adults; it helps people with respiratory or heart conditions,” said Stephen Walz, director of the Department of Environmental Programs at the Metropolitan Council of Governments.

“It helps reduce the haze and just the junky feeling that we get during these hot, humid days … so it makes us all just have a better life.”

On Code Yellow days, the Air Quality Action Guide recommends:

  • Bundling errands,
  • Eliminating unnecessary trips,
  • Making sure your car is well tuned.

“Transportation is one of the primary sources of air pollution,” Walz added.

Recommendations for Code Orange days include:

  • Put off mowing your lawn;
  • Carpool or take public transit;
  • Use a gas or electric grill versus charcoal;
  • Avoid gassing up in the heat of the afternoon.

Gassing up when there’s more sunshine out, Walz said, can cook volatiles that come off the gasoline and transform them into ozone.

“It’s better just to do it in the morning when the temperature is cooler,” Walz said. “It’s even better to carpool or take transit, or bike, or walk and just not use your vehicle.”

Wednesday was a Code Orange day, considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Air quality can get worse on high-temperature days, especially when it gets above 90 degrees.

Code Red and Code Purple are the most unhealthy designations for air quality.

Read the differences among the designations on COG’s website.


Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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