Air Quality Awareness Week (AQAW) Index

By: Munish Luthra, MD, FCCP, and David W. Unkle, MSN, APN, FCCP

April 29, 2019

All I need is the air that I breathe…

                                    The Hollies

We often take that beautiful sunny day as representing that the air that we breathe is equally as enjoyable. And when we think about air pollution, we seldom consider that it is present indoors as well. Consider this: air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, reduces life expectancy by up to 20 months and has contributed to nearly 5 million deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and lung cancer in 2017 alone.

AQAW is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service and will be held April 29 to May 3, 2019. The theme for this year is “Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) & Get Outside.” Utilize the AQI to determine your level of outdoor activity. 

Each day will have focused topics discussed on AQAW website, which will go live on April 29:

It’s that important that you should begin to monitor measures such as the air quality index (AQI). The AQI evaluates ozone and small particle pollution from things such as ground level ozone, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ash, soil dust, pollen, and other pollutants. The index ranges from a level of 0-50 (good with no advisory recommendations) to a level of 301-500 (hazardous with the recommendation for everyone to avoid all physical activity outdoors). At a level of 101-150 (the third of the six levels) children, active adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma and COPD, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

Air Quality Index

Source: CDC (

Simple measures to reduce outdoor air pollution include combining trips, carpooling, using public transportation or idling your car while waiting for someone or while at a convenience store. Energy efficient lighting, reducing plastic use (straws, cups, plates, utensils), reducing heating and electric use through programmable thermostats are measures that reduce indoor pollution.

Making school property tobacco-free is another way to maintain good indoor air quality. Another is to institute an anti-idling policy for delivery trucks, school buses, and automobiles waiting to pick up children after school.

In the workplace, identify potential exposure to hazardous chemicals and gas leaks. Airborne exposure to dust, tobacco smoke, vapors/mists, bacteria, and viruses all place workers at risk. And in the home, remodeling/renovation, painting, removing/installing new carpeting, or adding new furniture can also worsen respiratory symptoms. Be sure to do home inspection of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units (HVAC) units. Watch indoor humidity levels, and be sure that there is no visible mold. Fireplaces, both indoor and outdoor grills, fire pits, scented candles/diffusers, and infrequently cleaned respiratory devices, such as nebulizers and CPAP devices, can be sources of mold development.

Clean air doesn’t happen by “air aware” by improving air quality and life quality!

For further information, please visit the American Lung Association at:, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):, or the National Park Service website at:

Read our other Air Quality Awareness Week 2019 blog.


David UnkleDavid W. Unkle, MSN, APN, FCCP, is an advanced practice nurse for allergy, asthma, and immunology relief in Charlotte, North Carolina, with interests in pulmonary diseases and respirology, critical care/intensive care medicine, and advance cardiac life support. He is also Chair of the CHEST Interprofessional Team NetWork.

Dr. Munish LuthraMunish Luthra, MD, FCCP, is a member of the Interprofessional Team NetWork Steering Committee. Dr. Munish Luthra serves as Assistant Professor of Medicine and practices pulmonary and critical care medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. His clinical interests include managing patients with complications of lung cancer and immunocompromised critically ill patients in MICU. He is also a passionate medical educator and serves as Director of Bronchoscopy/EBUS simulation training for the Pulmonary Critical Care Fellowship program at Emory and Chair of the Smoking Cessation & Prevention Workgroup at the Georgia Lung Cancer Roundtable, an initiative of Georgia Cancer Control Consortium to improve lung cancer care in the state of Georgia.

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