Air Quality Index

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The weather of North Carolina’s summers is mainly composed of the “Bermuda high pressure system”. This result in quiet, almost cloudless situations where any pollutant found in the atmosphere remains hanging for longer periods. In contrast to other states, North Carolina is lucky not to be involved in practices that generate substantial pollution. Emissions from motor vehicles, paper processing industries, and electricity generation plants lead to delocalized problems for minimal lengths of time. Additional pollution comes from other states since winds in North Carolina blow from the west.

            The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come up with air quality index (AQI) that provides the public with information about the air conditions and any health risks that come with it. For each pollutant, that the EPA puts this index to, it gives a range of pollutant quantity that it considers to create minimal health risk or moderate. It also applies a mathematical principle to translate the amount to a scale of 500. The indexes for the pollutants are represented by specific colors. The AQI values, levels of health risks, and their corresponding colors are given below (Petersen 2002).

AQI                                                 Level of health risk                                            colors

0 to 50                                              Good                                                                    Green

51 to 100                                          Moderate                                                             Yellow

101 to 150                                        Unhealthy for susceptible groups                         Orange

151 to 2                                           Unhealthy                                                             Red

201 to 300                                        Very unhealthy                                                  Purple

301 to 500                                       Dangerous                                                           Maroon

            This paper will consider the AQIs for carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), and particulate matter (PM) in the city of charlotte, NC. It will also highlight the health consequences if the air quality exceeds their recommended standards. The following are the averages of the AQIs from the year 1999 to 2002 (Garcia&Colosio 2002).

Co2 92.23

So2 61.65

No2 27.03

O3 146.09

Pm 10 46.26

            Carbon monoxide (CO) results from the incomplete combustion of carbon fuels. A colorless and odorless gas, it is emitted in large amounts by vehicle exhaust. Other emitters are industrial processes and natural calamities such as wild fires. It enters the blood system via the lungs. CO competes with oxygen for hemoglobin, which is the oxygen carrier, leading to insufficient oxygen reaching the tissues. Individuals suffering from heart diseases like angina are more predisposed to risk. CO exposure to healthy persons impairs mental alertness and vision (Wayland 2003).

            Sulfur dioxide is produced during combustion of sulfur containing fuels e.g. coal and oil. Industrial activities like metal smelting are the major contributors. Asthmatic patients who are active in the field are more susceptible. The primary effect even with minimal exposure is the constriction of the air cavities leading to wheezing. Over exposure to SO2 and very small particles causes respiratory diseases, lowers lung immunity, and worsen existing heart diseases. Groups more predisposed include the old, individuals with heart and persistent lung illnesses.

            Nitrogen dioxide is a reddish brown and very reactive gas produced when nitric oxide reacts with atmospheric oxygen. Reaction of this gas with other elements produces ground level ozone. In asthma patients, it causes respiratory signs such as coughing, wheezing, and loss of breath. NO2 exposure may result in lung damage.

            Ground level ozone (O3) is formed in the lower atmosphere when pollutants emitted by vehicles, power-generating plants react in the presence of sunlight .Ground ozone affects individuals with respiratory problems and outdoor individuals. Exposure to ozone also lowers the lung function hence limiting performance. Both coarse and fine particles have adverse health effects. Larger particles worsen conditions like asthma. Fine particles are more dangerous as they may lead to death (Yao et al 2001).

            Some of the measures that can be taken to combat the effects and extend of factors affecting air quality include using cleaner forms of transport, keeping the engines of cars and boats in perfect form, avoiding fuel spillage and maintaining proper tyre pressure. Other actions include eliminating burning of waste, using paints and cleaning products that are not destructive to the environment.

            Maintaining clean air has the benefits of reducing the cost of health care, improving productivity in places of work due to improved quality of life. Vulnerable groups like children, asthma patients and the elderly experience a longer life expectancy. Overall, clean air is important in avoiding and limiting the effects of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

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