COPD: The Air You Breathe

Clean air is easier to breathe, especially if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Poor-quality air can cause symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. It can lead to needing more medicines or even send you to the hospital. Fortunately, the air quality index (AQI) tells you what the air is like outside. The Environmental Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

Air quality constantly changes. The AQI uses a scale from 0 to 500 to track those changes. An AQI below 100 means that the air is safe for outdoor activity for most people. An AQI of 101-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups such as people with lung or heart disease. An AQI of 151-200 is considered unhealthy for all groups; of 201-300 very unhealthy; and of 301-500 hazardous. An AQI above 150 means that you should avoid any outside exertion.

You can find the current AQI in several ways:

  • AQI forecasts are on the same newspaper page as your local weather.

  • Broadcast meteorologists warn when the AQI is going to be high.

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a Web site that gives the current AQI where you live.


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