How can the Air Quality Index help?
The Air Quality Index, or AQI is used to report levels of
common air pollutants such as particle pollution and
ground-level ozone. Many cities forecast for the next day's
AQI. These forecasts help local residents protect their
health by alerting thern to plan outdoor activities when air
quality is better. At this time, the South Carolina Department
of Health and Environmental Control does not forecast for
particle pollution, but does provide next-day forecasts for
ground-level ozone. From April 1 through September 30,
DHEC's forecasts for ozone are available at http://www.
The AQI is a national index, so the values and colors used
to show local air quality and the levels of health concern
wiil be the same everywhere you go in the United States.
Look for the AQI to be reported in your local newspaper,
on television and radio, on the Internet, and on local
telephone hot lines.
AIRNOW ( is a Web site that
gives daily information about air quality, including
ground-level ozone and particles and how they may
affect you. AIRNOW contains:
Real-time particle levels for many locations.
~	Air quality forecasts for many cities across the
~	Kids' Web page and associated teacher curriculum.
~	Smoke Web page.
~	Links to state and local air quality programs.
~	Ideas about what you can do to reduce particles. For
example, you can keep your car, boat, and other
weil-tuned and avoid using engines that smoke. You can
also participate in local energy conservation programs.
Air Quality Index
Air Quality
Health Advisory
0 to 50
51 to 100
Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.
101 to 150
for Sensitive Groups
People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavf
151 to 200
People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged
or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
201 to 300

People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical
activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.
United States
Environmental Protection Agency
Particle Pollution
and Your Health
Publications y
Web Cams /
Ozone Mappingy
Forecasts'" }
Daily air quality and health information are available on the
AIRNOW Web site []
* photo courtesy of The Weather Channel.
D ]
South Carolina Department of Health
and Environmental Control
Bureau of Air Quality
h ttp: //www. scd hec. gov/ baq
(803) 898-4123
' H36-S01	M«8» 5/20.1 Q
What Is Particle Pollution?
Are You at Risk?
How Can You Protect Yourself?
South Carolina Department of Health
and Environmental Control

A irborne particles, the main ingredient
of haze, smoke and airborne dust, present
serious air quality problems in many areas
of the United States. This particle pollution
can occur year-round—and it can cause a
number of serious health problems, even at
concentrations found in many major cities.
What is particle pollution?
Particle pollution is a mixture of microscopic solids and
liquid droplets suspended in air. This pollution, also
known as particulate matter, is made up of a number
of components, including acids (such as nitrates and
sulfates), organic chemicals, metals,, soil or dust particles,
and allergens (such as fragments of pollen or mold
Ihe size of particles is directly linked to their potential
for causing health problems. Small particles less than
1 0 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems,
because they can get deep into your lungs, and some
may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such
particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Larger
particles are of less concern, although they can irritate
your eyes, nose and throat.
Particles of concern include "line particles" (such as those
found in smoke and haze), which are 2.5 micrometers
in diameter or less; and "coarse particles" (such as those
found in wind-blown dust), which have diameters between
2.5 and 10 micrometers. As an example of this size of
2.5 micrometers, the thickness of a human hair is about
75 micrometers.
Are you at risk from particles?
People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and
children are considered at greater risk from particles
than other people, especially when they are physically
active. Exercise and physical activity cause people to
breathe faster and more deeply—and to take more
particles into their lungs.
People with heart or lung diseases—such as coronary
artery disease, congestive heart failure, and asthma or
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)— are at
increased risk because particles can aggravate these
diseases. People with diabetes also may be at increased
risk, possibly because they are more likely to have
underlying cardiovascular disease.
Older adults are at increased risk, possibly because they
may have undiagnosed heart or lung disease or diabetes.
Many studies show that when particle levels are high,
older adults are more likely to be hospitalized, and some
may die of aggravated heart or lung disease.
Children are likely at increased risk for several reasons.
I heir lungs are still developing; they spend more time
at high activity levels; and they are more likely to have
asthma or acute respiratory diseases, which can be
aggravated when particle levels are high.
it appears that risk varies throughout a lifetime, generally
being higher in early childhood, lower in healthy
adolescents and younger adults, and increasing in middle
age through old age as the incidence of heart and lung
disease and diabetes increases. Factors that increase
your risk of heart attack, such as high blood pressure or
elevated cholesterol levels, may also increase your risk
from particles. In addition, scientists are evaluating new
studies that suggest that exposure to high particle levels
may also be associated with low birth weight in infants,
pre-term deliveries, and possibly fetal and infant deaths.
How can particles affect your health?
Particle exposure can lead to a variety of health effects.
Numerous studies link particle levels to increased hospital
admissions and emergency room visits—and even to
death from heart or lung diseases. Health problems have
been linked to long- and short-term particle exposure.
Long-term exposures, experienced by people living for
many years in areas with high particle levels, have been
associated with problems such as reduced lung function
and the development of chronic bronchitis—and even
premature death.
Short-term exposures to particles (hours or days) can
aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and
acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to
respiratory infections. In people with heart disease, short-
term exposures have been linked to heart attacks
and arrhythmias. Healthy children and aduits have not
been reported to suffer serious effects from short- term
exposures, although they may experience temporary minor
irritation when particle levels are elevated.
What are the symptoms of particle
Even if you are healthy, you may experience temporary
symptoms, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat;
coughing; phlegm; chest tightness; and shortness of
If you have lung disease, you may not be able to
breathe as deeply or as vigorously as normal, and you
may experience coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing,
shortness of breath, and unusual fatigue. If you have any
of these symptoms, reduce your exposure to particles
and follow your doctor's advice. Contact your doctor if
symptoms persist or worsen.
If you have asthma, carefully follow your asthma
management plan when particle levels are high. If you
don't have an asthma management plan, your doctor can
help you with one.
If you have heart disease, particle exposure can cause
How can you avoid unhealthy exposure?
Your chances of being affected by particles increase the
more strenuous your activity and the longer you are active
outdoors. If your activity involves prolonged or heavy
exertion, reduce your activity time—or substitute another
activity that involves less exertion. For example, go for a
walk instead of a jog. Plan outdoor activities for
days when particle levels are lower. And don't exercise
near busy roads where particle levels generally are
Particle levels can be elevated indoors, especially when
outdoor particle levels are high. Certain filters and room
air cleaners can help reduce indoor particle levels. Look
for HVAC return filters with a Minimum Efficiency Rating
Value (MERV) of at least 8.
You can also reduce particle levels indoors by not smoking
inside and by reducing your use of other particle sources
such as candles, wood-burning stoves, and fireplaces.
Open burning also causes particle pollution, and burning
trash is illegal in South Carolina. For yard debris, look
for composting facilities in your area, arrange to have it
picked up by the local solid waste authority, or reuse it on-
site as compost, mulch or brush piles for birds and other
serious problems in
a short period of
time —even heart
attacks—with no
warning signs. So
don't assume that
you are safe just
because you don't
have symptoms.
Symptoms such
as chest pain
or tightness,
shortness of breath,
or unusual fatigue
may indicate a
serious problem.
If you have any of
these symptoms, follow your doctor's advice.