School to monitor air quality for public

Youth raise the first flag denoting air quality at Preston Junior High.

Preston Junior High School is raising a brightly colored flag to help their employees and members of the community be aware of daily air quality conditions. The junior high has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Flag Program to help protect people’s health.

“Preston Junior High has a unique opportunity to participate in the Air Quality Flag Program,” stated Camille Jensen, Preston Junior High Science Department Head. ”We live in an area which experiences poor air quality throughout the winter months. The local air quality meter is located at the junior high next to our weather station. We can gather current data on our air quality and fly the air quality flags near the highway for the students and public to view. We are proud to be the first school in Idaho to participate in the flag program and share the information with our students and the public,” said Jensen.

Each day, Preston Junior High will raise a flag based on the color of the Air Quality Index (AQI) to show how polluted the air is expected to be. By comparing the colored flags to the AQI, everyone who sees the flags will know what actions to take to protect their health. Green signals good air quality, yellow is moderate, orange means unhealthy for sensitive groups (like children and people with asthma), and red signals unhealthy air for everyone. A purple flag means the air quality is very unhealthy and sensitive groups should avoid all outdoor exertion while everyone else should limit outdoor exertion.

Air quality can affect daily lives, and it can change from day to day, season to season, and can even vary depending on the time of day. The AQI provides information about the health effects of common air pollutants, and how to avoid those effects. The flags alert people to that particular day’s air quality, so they know when to modify their outdoor activities, like exercising for less time or moving exercise indoors when necessary.

Getting up-to-date air quality information is easy by subscribing at www.enviroflash.info or downloading the AirNow app. The daily air quality forecast can be sent to one’s email, cell phone or Twitter. This is especially helpful for those who are sensitive to the effects of air pollution, such as children, adults who are active outdoors, people with heart and lung disease, and older adults.

For more information on the Air Quality Flag Program visit EPA’s AirNow website at www.airnow.gov/flag

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