Air Quality Awareness Week 2022 (AQAW) is from May 2 - May 6 this year and is a great opportunity to interact with your family, school, and community about air quality awareness. Whether you are a teacher, parent, or someone concerned about the air you breathe, this week is the perfect time to brush up on how to improve your air quality and get involved in your community.
Filterbuy is celebrating Air Quality Awareness Week’s “Be Air Aware & Prepared” theme by breaking down the AQAW daily schedule and providing you with suggestions for how you can get involved. Our goal is to help you stay informed and prepared for the upcoming week.
Monday 5/2 - Wildfires & Smoke
Why Is Wildfire Awareness Important?
Wildfires are often wide-sweeping and notoriously hard to stop once started, especially in dry and warm climates like California, Texas, and North Carolina. Wildfire smoke is also a significant public health concern, due to the overwhelming particle pollution released into the air. According to the EPA:
The air we breathe both indoors and outdoors, always contains particle pollution. Because of their small size, particles can easily penetrate homes and buildings, increasing indoor particle concentrations. During a wildfire or other combustion-related activities, concentrations of particles can substantially increase in the air to the point that particle pollution is visible to the naked eye.
In other words, even if your home is still standing during or after a wildfire, the air you breathe may be severely impacted by carbon monoxide and pollutant-filled smoke.
Wildfire smoke inhalation can cause several health effects, including difficulty breathing, chest and throat pain, coughing, and congestion. Those with previous breathing conditions, such as asthma, are even more likely to experience symptoms. However, extreme smoke inhalation can cause permanent health problems for those without prior conditions, including smoke-induced asthma and lung damage.
How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Home?
There are many ways to protect yourself against possible wildfire threats and smoke exposure. As with most natural disasters, prepping your family and property for fire season beforehand is the first step towards wildfire protection. The EPA has laid out a list of ways you can prepare for fire season in your area, including:
- Finding an Alert System - Knowing where to access public announcements about wildfire activity or local outdoor air quality reports can help you take action quickly.
- Stocking Up on Essentials (Including Food and Medication) - Having the necessary supplies and resources available helps you avoid trips to the grocery store or pharmacy during periods of outdoor smoke contamination.
- Checking Your HVAC System - Understanding your HVAC system and the filters you use can help you keep smoke out of your home during an emergency. Having high-MERV rating filters, such as MERV 13 - 16, readily available can help you filter out particles and maintain healthy indoor air quality.
- Buying a Portable Air Cleaner - Portable air cleaners are effective at removing some smoke and other hazardous particles from the air. They are especially helpful for high-risk individuals or those with asthma. Investing in one at the beginning of fire season ensures that you have the device on hand when needed.
- Making a Relocation Plan - High smoke levels around your home may be a cause for relocation. In this case, always plan a safe place to stay that’s away from the current outdoor air quality threat, such as a friend or relative’s house.
For more detailed information on these protective measures, as well as other ways to protect your home, feel free to read the EPA’s suggestions on preparing for fire season.
Tuesday 5/3 - Asthma & Your Health
Why Is Asthma Awareness Important?
Asthma is a major issue in the U.S., affecting more than 24 million Americans (according to the EPA). The reasons behind the disease are still somewhat unclear, but those who receive an asthma diagnosis will have it for the rest of their lives. Asthma is also common among children and teens, with an estimated 3 students per 30 child classrooms being affected.
Improving community asthma awareness, especially in schools and other high-traffic indoor settings, can improve the lives of children and adults who have the condition. Spreading factual information about indoor air quality and advocating for those affected by asthma in your community or school is a great place to start.
How Can You Make Your Home and Community More Asthma Friendly?
If a person in your home has asthma, understanding their common triggers and removing them from your home is a way to prevent frequent or future attacks. Additionally, finding ways to improve your indoor air quality, such as more frequent home cleaning or replacing your air filters with those with higher MERV ratings, can help asthmatics in your home. Other options include talking to a doctor and creating an asthma attack action plan.
Outside of your home, school districts, community buildings, and businesses can help manage asthma triggers in the following ways:
- Setting Clear Cleaning Protocols - Having buildings regularly and professionally cleaned can significantly reduce exposure to common asthma triggers.
- Reducing Mold and Mildew Exposure - Taking care of any mold or mildew signs before they become a problem can help prevent mold-based attacks.
- Reducing Exposure to Diesel-Fueled Buses - When buses or transportation vehicles are necessary, ensure those with asthma do not breathe in exhaust fumes or smoke for lengths of time. This is especially important for schools that require students to wait outside by the buses.
- Investing in Good Indoor Air Quality Measures - Investing in good air quality measures, such as HVAC system improvements and higher-quality air filtration systems, is an excellent way to reduce asthma attacks for most affected individuals.
To find out more information about asthma awareness, a list of related resources, and get involved in community outreach, take a look at the EPA’s asthma webpage.
Wednesday 5/4 – Citizen Science & Sensors
Why Is Citizen Science Important?
Citizen science is a form of data collection, research, and analysis that involves people around your community. Everyday individuals participate in scientific projects to help researchers understand environmental issues and how real populations in different areas are being affected.
Sensors are tools that can be used by the average person to measure environmental factors, including local outdoor air quality. This data is then given to scientists to use and better understand what is happening within local communities.
Citizen science and sensors allow you to participate in the air quality research first-hand as a community member and concerned citizen. These practices give researchers a more in-depth understanding of air pollution in highly populated or under-represented areas, allowing them to identify potential air quality issues and trends.
How Can You Get Involved In Citizen Science and Sensors?
Getting involved in a citizen science project is a great way to support air quality awareness in your community. Participatory projects are usually localized to your area, but there are also opportunities to participate in larger, country-wide studies. Here are some options supported by the EPA to get involved with citizen science:
- Smoke Sense App Tracking - For those in areas that experience wildfires, this crowdsourcing app allows users to submit information about smoke effects and community impact.
- Air Sensor Loan Program - This program brings sensory devices to community groups, such as libraries, for citizen usage. Citizens can use the sensors to measure the air quality around their homes and communities.
- Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network - This network allows everyday citizens to share environmental-related information, findings, and observations through pictures and stories.
- Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN) - This online tool tracks environmental-based concerns from those in specific California communities.
There are many more projects to consider when getting involved in participatory sciences. For more information on citizen science projects, keep updated with the EPA and your local scientific community.
Thursday 5/5 – Environmental Justice & Air Quality
Why Is Environmental Justice Important?
As defined by the EPA, environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
Environmental Justice is important for many reasons, including protecting public health, limiting pollution in communities, creating environmental regulations, and even addressing wide-scale living concerns. No matter where you live, you and your community are entitled to equal treatment and consideration with respect to environmental issues.
Often, environmental justice-based work assists vulnerable and historically marginalized communities, where the effects of poor living conditions and air quality are disregarded. From transportation to housing rights, supporting environmental justice means working towards legal initiatives that protect citizens from harmful air quality and dangerous living conditions.
How Can You Get Involved in Environmental Justice & Air Quality?
While groups like the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council provide a place for environmental justice education and discussion within the government, there are ways you can get involved on a more personal, community-focused level.
- Reporting Environmental Violations - Report environmental violations in your community, including improper waste disposal, hazardous activities or substances, polluted drinking water, or harmful industrial pollution.
- Use Government Resources - There is a large amount of information from the EPA and other government-led groups about environmental justice. Taking advantage of educational opportunities can help you be more informed and spread factual news.
- Donate to Local Environmental Justice Organizations - If you have the financial ability, donating to environmental justice organizations is a helpful way to support the cause.
- Get Involved in Participatory Projects - Getting involved in participatory science projects, specifically those focused on your community’s air quality index, can help alert researchers to potential environmental hazards.
To learn more about environmental justice and how to get involved, look up organizations in your area and take a look at the EPA’s environmental justice page.
Friday 5/6 – Air Quality Around the World
Why Is Air Quality Around the World Important?
While air quality is a concern here in America, other countries have different air quality levels and standards. Countries with very high pollution rates may have higher respiratory, cardiovascular, and chronic illnesses within their general population. Spreading global air quality awareness and gathering multinational environmental information could help reduce air pollution levels in the long term.
Global air quality awareness and information also help to ensure U.S. citizens in international embassies or traveling in other countries are aware of that location’s air quality. This information can help these individuals be better informed about their health while abroad, alerting them to potential breathing hazards and dangerous air pollution levels.
How Can You Get Involved with Air Quality Around the World?
There are options available for those looking to contribute to air quality awareness around the world. Some of these include:
- Donating to the WHO Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund - Within the few years, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a fixture in global air quality awareness. By donating to the World Health Organization Response Fund, you can support international Covid-19 relief.
- Educating Yourself and Others - Keeping updated with global news and scientific studies is a great way to stay informed and educated on worldwide air quality initiatives. The EPA and WHO websites are good places to start for the most up-to-date facts.
- Checking the AirNow DOS Embassies and Consulates Index Before Traveling - If you plan to travel to another country within the next few years, make sure to check the AirNow DOS for the most accurate air quality index level and information about your destination.
Looking to get more directly involved with global air quality initiatives? The Environmental Defense Fund offers membership options whose proceeds go directly to fighting climate change and global air pollution.
More Air Quality Awareness Week 2022 Resources
Air Quality Awareness Week 2022 is an opportunity to educate yourself about the importance of good indoor air quality and increase health awareness in your community. For more information on Air Quality Awareness Week 2022 and access to the AQAW 2022 Toolkit, visit https://www.airnow.gov/aqaw/.
If you want to learn more about air filter MERV ratings or want to replace your home air filter to improve indoor air quality, visit www.filterbuy.com today. We have many resources available online and are happy to help with your air quality needs.