Impacts of Air Quality on Health

June 7, 2023

An Air Quality Alert is in effect for the NYC Metro Region for Wednesday, July 26, 2023.

Air Quality Health Advisory

Air Quality Health Advisories are issued when levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The Air Quality Index (AQI) communicates to populations how clean or polluted outdoor air is and associated health concerns. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is unhealthy: at first for vulnerable populations:

  • Children
  • Older adults
  • People with asthma and other respiratory conditions
  • Pregnant Women

Then for the general public as AQI values increase. The AQI is divided into six, color-coded categories.

Chart of the six Air Quality Index (AQI) levels.
Source: AirNow.Gov

Short-term exposure to air pollutants like fine particulate matter can cause:

  • Chest pains
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritated eyes, sinuses and throat
  • Increased risk for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases

Long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with various chronic health conditions, including:

  • Severe asthma
  • Preterm birth
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung cancer
  • Dementia
  • Lower IQ in children

During Air Quality Health Advisories, New Yorkers are encouraged to take precautions:

  • Stay indoors with doors and windows closed;
  • Wear a mask outdoors if unable to remain indoors;
  • Use mass transit or combine trips to conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions, if travel is necessary;
  • Turn off all lights and electrical appliances in unoccupied areas;
  • Use fans to circulate air. If air conditioning is necessary, set thermostats at 78 degrees;
  • Close blinds and shades to limit heat build-up and to preserve cooled air;
  • Limit use of household appliances. If necessary, run the appliances like dishwashers, dryers, pool pumps and water heaters during off-peak (after 7 p.m.) hours.