Air Quality Information for Seniors

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How does air pollution affect seniors?Asthma, respiratory illness, and heart conditions are aggravated by pollutants in the air.

  • Ozone: Ozone is a primary ingredient in smog. Studies indicate that exposure to ground-level ozone air pollution, even at very low levels, can cause a number of respiratory health effects. Ozone irritates the respiratory system, reduces lung function, can make asthma symptoms worse, and can inflame and damage the lining of the lung.
  • Particulate Matter: Fine mineral, metal, soot, smoke, and dust particles suspended in the air can permanently lodge in the deepest and most sensitive areas of the lung, and can aggravate many respiratory illnesses including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. High levels of particle pollution have also been associated with a higher incidence of heart problems, including heart attacks.

When and where am I most at risk?

  • During poor air quality days
  • Near a wildfire
  • Oftentimes indoors if the proper precautions are not taken.

What should I do to avoid bad air outside?

  • Watch for air quality advisories. Sign up to receive notifications on this page.
  • Check our “Today’s Air Quality” page – orange means the air is “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”
  • Reschedule outdoor recreational activities when the air is bad.
  • Stay indoors, especially if you have lung conditions, such as asthma or bronchitis, or heart conditions.

What should I do during a wildfire?

  • Stay indoors, especially if you are an at risk population.
  • If air quality is poor for an extended period of time, consider leaving the area.
  • Consult with your doctor before buying and using a mask. Masks and respirators can provide a false sense of security, and are also not recommended for people who already have lung problems as masks can restrict airflow. Masks will also not be effective if they are not the proper kind and are not properly worn. Find more information at the CDC.
  • Even after the fire has been extinguished, winds can carry ash, soot, and other pollutants. Pay attention to air quality advisories after a fire to find out if the air is safe.

What about the air inside?The household products we use every day as well as appliances, furniture, and building materials emit gases that can become trapped indoors. Many of these gasses are pollutants that are harmful to health. To improve indoor air:

  • Reduce sources of pollutants. Don?t smoke indoors, keep the room free of dust and pet dander, and use safe cleaning products. Follow these safe fireplace burning tips.
  • Ventilate. Open windows and doors to allow air to circulate when the air outside is clean.
  • Filter. Remove pollutants with an appropriate air cleaner. However, you should never use indoor air cleaners that generate ozone. Select a mechanical air cleaner with a fiber or fabric filter. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are the most efficient. Filters should be tightly sealed in their containers and cleaned or replaced regularly.

If you live in a retirement community, find out how protected you are from indoor and outdoor air pollution:

  • Are the air filters in your heating and cooling systems changed as often as the manufacturer?s recommend?
  • Does the maintenance staff properly use cleaning products?
  • Are your gas and combustion appliances properly ventilated?
  • Does your landscaping service use electric leaf blowers and lawnmowers? Also, make sure that leaf blowers are not used before or shortly after a wildfire. Learn more about safe leaf blower use here.