Air pollution: Five things to do when air quality is unhealthy

A yellow and brown sky over a neighborhood shows the area’s poor air quality

Wildfires in Quebec and Nova Scotia, Canada, are currently causing hazardous, hazy air to blanket the eastern United States. The poor air quality in many areas of Canada and the U.S. is likely to last into the weekend.

So, what should you do if you live in one of these areas with “bad air days”?

How we measure air quality

Air quality measuring sites like the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website measure air quality with the metric of AQI, or “air quality index.”

This index looks at pollutants like particulate matter in the air and ozone.

When AQI reaches 100 or more, that’s an unhealthy rating, especially for people with certain vulnerabilities such as pre-existing respiratory conditions (COPD, asthma, etc.) or who are elderly or very young.

How to protect yourself when outdoor air reaches hazardous levels

  1. Reduce your outdoor activity, especially if it involves exercise, which would cause you to breathe in those pollutants more quickly.
  2. Check your air filters in your home and ensure that they’re HEPA filters that will effectively filter out particulate matter.
  3. Keep your loved ones who are susceptible to more breathing problems indoors when possible.
  4. Consider wearing a mask outdoors to limit the amount of particulate matter that makes it into your lungs. N95 masks are the best options, but whatever mask (or even a scarf!) you can wear is better than nothing.
  5. Keep an eye on the air quality with sites like

More: The dos and don’ts of home air quality, and why it matters

Need help managing your asthma?

Ohio State is home to the only dedicated asthma center in central Ohio.

Ohio State Asthma Center


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