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EPA and NOAA Ask: Are You Air Aware?

Release Date: 05/15/2006
Contact Information: Roxanne Smith, (202) 564-4355 / En español: Lina Younes, 202-564-9924 /

(Washington, D.C. - May 15, 2006) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are reminding people across the country about the health impact of air quality in their communities as part of national Air Quality Awareness Week, May 15-19. Both agencies are urging Americans to check air quality forecasts to protect their health.

"From coast to coast, Americans are breathing easier under the leadership of President Bush," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "By cutting power plant emissions of mercury, soot and smog, and equipping families with state-of-the-art air quality tools, EPA is delivering cleaner lungs and healthier lives. Building on three decades of air progress, EPA is working to bring our nation better health and a brighter future through the passage of the President's Clear Skies initiative."

"Daily weather conditions, such as hot temperatures, sunshine, and stagnant air, can be among the factors supporting dangerous air quality," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "NOAA is proud to partner with the EPA and local air quality forecasters in providing Americans with the air quality information necessary to make important health decisions."

Daily air quality forecasts are issued by state and local governments based on EPA's Air Quality Index, a simple, color-coded scale that describes a community's air quality and when people should take steps to reduce their exposure to pollution. The color-coded scale ranges from green, which means air quality is good, to maroon, which means air quality is hazardous. These forecasts are available for ozone, which occurs primarily in summertime, and for particle pollution, which can occur year-round.

Air quality forecasts are easy to use. When air pollution reaches the "code orange" level, certain sensitive groups of people are more likely to be affected by pollution and should take steps to reduce their exposure. Reducing exposure can be as simple as reducing the intensity of exercise or other activities such as yard work, or rescheduling the activity for a time when air quality is expected to be better.

To bring these important forecasts to the public, air quality forecasters use a combination of weather forecast information, current ozone or particle concentrations, and local knowledge of air pollution sources. Currently, NOAA computer guidance is improving forecasters' ability to predict the onset, severity, and duration of ozone pollution across the eastern half of the U.S. NOAA plans to expand its air quality forecast guidance, on an experimental basis, to include the western half of the continental U.S. this summer.

For information on National Air Quality Awareness Week:

For information on air quality:

For NOAA's Air Quality Guidance: