air quality advisories to have a positive effect on public health, they must be
widely available and well-understood. Evidence indicates the AQI may indeed be
helpful. Data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
conducted in six states (Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, and
Wisconsin) were analyzed to assess reductions or changes in outdoor activities
because of media alerts on AQI and health professional advice to reduce or
change outdoor activity levels (Wen et al., 2009). BRFSS is a standardized
state-based telephone survey system designed to collect data on health risk
behaviors and health conditions from adults aged 18 and older. About 31% (95%
CI: 27.8–34.4%; P < 0.0001) of the respondents with lifetime asthma and 16%
(95% CI: 15.1–17.1%; P < 0.0001) of those without asthma reported changes in
outdoor activities because of media alerts of air quality. Among the
respondents who ever received a health professional’s advice to reduce outdoor
activity, about 51% of those without asthma (95% CI: 43.2–57.9%; P < 0.001)
and 57% of those with lifetime asthma (95% CI: 49.1–63.7%; P < 0.001)
reported a media alert-based outdoor activity change or reduction. This shows
that receiving advice from a health professional is also a very important
factor in the decision to change or reduce outdoor activities.
activity diary study (Mansfield et al., 2006) found that parents of children
with asthma were more likely to report checking the AQI frequently, with more
serious asthma being a predictor of more frequent checking. The activity
diaries revealed that parents who thought that their asthmatic children were
sensitive to air pollution reduced their children’s time outdoors by about 30
minutes on a “Code Red” day relative to a non-Code Red day. On days with Good
(Green) air quality, the amount time spent outdoors was similar for asthmatic
children who were believed to be sensitive and non-sensitive to air pollution.
paper (Neidell and Kinney 2009) estimates the statistical association between
ambient ozone concentrations and asthma hospitalizations in Southern California
while accounting for potential avoidance behavior in response to forecasted air
quality. Data on asthma hospital admissions were merged with observed and
forecasted air quality and meteorological data at the daily level for the years
1989–1997. Accounting for potential responses to information about pollution
leads to significantly larger estimates of the relationship between ozone
concentrations and asthma hospital admissions, particularly for susceptible
populations. Individuals take substantial actions to reduce exposure to ozone.
can the daily AQI be found?
In many areas, the local media - newspapers, television
and radio - will provide AQI reports telling the public when ozone levels are
predicted to be unhealthy. These reports generally occur during the weather
forecasts. Some national media, such as USA Today, The Weather
Channel, and CNN also provide daily air quality reports.
Air quality forecasts and real-time air quality
information can be found on EPA's AIRNow Web site (www.airnow.gov). Ozone air quality forecasts for more than 350 cities
across the country are posted daily by 4:30 PM during the summertime ozone
Click here for today's
air quality forecast.
Figure 17: AQI forecast map. Same-day and next-day
air quality forecasts for the United States can be found at http://www.airnow.gov. This on-line map shows
forecasts for various pollutants by location. State and local agencies
continually provide data for the forecasts, which are based on EPA's Air
Quality Index (AQI). Clicking a spot on the actual forecast map links you to
Web sites with information about air pollution in that location.