The air quality in and around the three colleges of the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) remains in the Unhealthy to Sensitive Groups range (100-151). This air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution. The District will continue evaluating the AQI and weather patterns, and will update the community as needed. The following information is from the American Lung Association: https://www.lung.org/blog/poor-air-quality-protection
Who is considered in a sensitive group?
High risk groups include children under 18, the elderly, people with chronic heart or lung disease, pregnant people, and people with diabetes. Adults who are active outdoors, including outdoor workers and avid exercisers, can be considered at higher risk as well because of prolonged exposure. All these groups are most likely to be the first to experience the effects of ozone and particle pollution, so they need to take extra steps to protect themselves from harm.
What can you do to stay safe from poor air quality?
Air pollution can threaten anyone’s health, so stay up to date on the AQI in your area. AQI forecasts and real-time information can be found on EPA’s AirNow Website. AQI values at or below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory but be aware of how you feel and take steps to help protect yourself whenever needed.
On days when the air quality is orange, red, purple or maroon:
- Reduce the time you spend outdoors to under 30 minutes when AQI is high. Also, reduce the intensity of outdoor activity. According to the EPA, the chances of being affected by unhealthy levels of air pollution increase the longer a person is active outdoors and the more strenuous the activity.
- If you must go outdoors, consider wearing a mask. Unfortunately, not all masks are created equal when it comes to particle pollution as a cloth or dust mask are not able to filter out the fine particles. However, well-fitted N95 or KN95 masks have better filtration capabilities and may be beneficial during high AQI days. The District has N95 respirators available at campus public safety offices, health centers, and bookstores.
- Keep your air indoors healthy by keeping the windows and doors closed. Run the air conditioning on the recirculate setting, use a portable HEPA air cleaner or, in severe circumstances, creating a clean room.
Here are some simple, effective tips for protecting you and your family from the dangers of outdoor air pollution:
- Check daily air pollution forecasts in your area. The color-coded forecasts can let you know when the air is unhealthy in your community. Sources include local radio and TV weather reports, newspapers and online at airnow.gov.
- Avoid exercising outdoors when pollution levels are high. When the air is bad, move your workout indoors, like walking in a shopping mall or using a gym. Limit the amount of time your child spends playing outdoors if the air quality is unhealthy. And even if the air quality forecasts are green, avoid exercising near high-traffic areas, because the vehicles on busy highways can create high pollution levels nearby.
- Use less energy in your home. Generating electricity and other sources of energy creates air pollution. By reducing energy use, you can help improve air quality, curb greenhouse gas emissions, encourage energy independence and save money! Check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s easy tips for conserving energy at home.
- Encourage your child’s school to reduce exposure to school bus emissions. To keep exhaust levels down, schools should not allow school buses to idle outside of their buildings. Many school systems are using the U.S. EPA’s Clean School Bus Program to replace diesel buses with zero emissions buses.
- Walk, bike or carpool. Combine trips. Use buses, subways, light rail systems, commuter trains or other alternatives to driving your car.
- Don’t burn wood or trash. Burning firewood and trash are among the major sources of particle pollution in many parts of the country.
- Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment rather than gasoline-powered. Old two-stroke engines like lawnmowers and leaf or snow blowers add pollution to the air.
- Be ready for disasters that impact air quality, like wildfires. Learn how to prepare for wildfire smoke, extreme heat and cold, storms and more with our resources.
- Protect your indoor air quality too. Learn how to make sure the air you breathe indoors is clean.
- Raise your voice. We can all take steps to reduce pollution and avoid exposure, but we need our policymakers at every level of government to prioritize clean air. Get involved by checking out our Healthy Air Campaign, where you can send messages to decision-makers and share your story.