The Wisconsin DNR is reporting an “Orange” air quality warning for Milwaukee and nearby counties for Friday, March 3, due to persistent elevated levels of fine particles in the air. Cities under the warning include Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, and Sheboygan. The Orange air quality index indicates the conditions are Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.
What is meant by Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups?
Unhealthy here means certain groups may experience health effects from the air quality, but the general public is not likely to be affected. The groups depend on the type of pollution:
- Ozone: Individuals with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors are considered sensitive and therefore at greater risk.
- Particle pollution: People with heart or lung disease, older adults (starting at mid-40s for men and mid-50s for women), and children are considered sensitive and therefore at greater risk.
Health risks of Particle Pollution
Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to health problems, including:
- Increased coughing or difficulty breathing;
- Decreased ability of the lung to transfer oxygen to the lungs;
- Aggravated asthma;
- Chronic bronchitis;
- Irregular heartbeat;
- Nonfatal heart attacks; and
- Premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
What you can do to remain safe
There are two important factors to consider to avoid being exposed to unhealthy air during times of increased pollution:
Minimize Prolonged Exertion -- any outdoor activity that you’ll be doing off-and-on for several hours and that makes you breathe slightly harder than normal.
Minimize Heavy Exertion -- intense outdoor activities that cause you to breathe hard. It is very important to reduce your activity level if you experience any unusual coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, breathing difficulty, or unusual fatigue.
When the AQI forecast reaches Code Orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) make some adjustments to your exercise plans. Walking instead of running, or weeding your garden instead of moving a lot of heavy mulch, are just a couple of examples of things you can do to reduce the amount of pollution you are exposed to.
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