Monitors show local air pollution levelsAugust 10, 2021
By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
The far-reaching effects of unprecedented wildfires out west, in combination with regional pollution, have recently caused air quality alerts in Dubois County and the surrounding area.
Ohio Valley Safe Air, a joint venture with Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life and Valley Watch, is installing monitors throughout southern Indiana that collect real-time levels of air quality, according to a recent SWICQL press release. The monitors were purchased with grant money from the AEP Mitigation Money Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation.
Mary Hess, SWICQL president, said the local organization applied for the grant this past spring because it saw a need for more air quality monitoring in the area.
“There was only one monitor in Spencer County, just as an example,” said Hess, who lives in Dale. “The monitors are handy, especially for people who have health issues and especially on hot, humid summer days where the air lays low. And we’re kind of in a low spot here.”
Air quality is measured by the U.S. Air Quality Index, which is measured on a scale of 0 to 500. The higher the number, the more air pollution. A rating at or below 50 is considered good, and a rating at or below 100 is considered acceptable. A rating above 150 is considered unhealthy, and a rating above 300 is considered a public health emergency.
Reports from the monitors can be accessed for free by downloading the AirVisual app or visiting www.iqair.com. The app and website are easily accessible, Hess said, so air quality information can be seen by anyone in Dubois County or the surrounding area. Information includes current and previous AQI ratings across the world, a real-time air pollution map and suggestions on what to do if dealing with poor air quality.
On Monday afternoon, Jasper’s air quality measured at 57 AQI, according to the website. On Saturday, July 31, the city measured at 129 AQI, so it was dangerous for some sensitive groups to be outside.
Around Jasper, AQI is specifically measured and reported at the Cabby O’Neill Gym, Beaver Lake and the Hoosier Hills Marina. In Huntingburg, it is measured at the Fairmount Cemetery. In Ferdinand, it is measured at the fire tower, 18th Street Park and Monastery Immaculate Conception.
One day a few weeks ago, Evansville was the only city east of the Mississippi River to be in the top 10 cities with the poorest air quality.
Air pollution can harm anyone but can be especially dangerous for children and the elderly, as well as people with health issues such as asthma or high blood pressure. People who exercise outside often can also be harmed. Limiting outside exposure on bad air quality days can be important for one’s health, Hess said. This can be done by closing windows and exercising inside, for example.
“The main thing is for people to check (the app),” Hess said. “Schools can check it, too. Some days, the kids really shouldn’t even be outside. Sometimes, we live our lives as though nothing is happening around us, but it is.”
The monitors measure how many small particles of dust, dirt and smoke are in the air. The particles are so small, Hess said, that they can be breathed deep into the lungs and cause health problems. The particles can also damage the surrounding environment, such as crops or water sources.
Not all the local monitors are set up yet, Hess said, but they will be soon.
To view only the Ohio Valley Safe Air monitors, visit www.iqair.com/us/profile/ovsa or use the map to zoom in on a specific area and click on any monitor shown. Areas can be added to a favorites list by clicking the heart. The same steps can be followed on the app.
More information on AQI, who is at risk and how to reduce risk on bad air quality days can be found here.
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