A Smoky Independence Day

06.30.23 |

Independence Day is right around the corner, which for our readers in the United States usually means a weekend of picnics and fireworks. Normally, our pre-holiday focus is on how to make healthy choices when you are surrounded by temptations, but due to the wildfire smoke blowing across much of the northeast U.S., we need to talk about air quality.

Air quality always matters, which is why the Habits of Health Transformational System recommends changing your air filters, using air purifiers, and spending time in nature away from busy cities where smog is common. 

How much does air quality matter?

Smoking and the Air Quality Index

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a national resource for tracking air quality. If you enter your zipcode or city, you can see the latest updates for air quality in your area.

Here’s how much it matters: An AQI measurement of 20 is equivalent to smoking one cigarette a day. You already know that smoking is detrimental to your health in a variety of ways, but let’s really put this into perspective.

This is the current air quality in New York City:

An AQI of 150 is roughly equivalent to seven cigarettes a day, causing lung inflammation, increasing asthma rates, and potentially increasing the risks of stroke and heart attacks, especially in people over the age of 65.

Air quality is an important factor in longevity, and I hope you can see just how serious the risk can be.

What Next?

Here are some recommendations for reducing the risks of wildfire smoke and other air quality issues:

  • Check the AQI for your area to assess the potential risks in your area.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities when the AQI rating is high.
  • Close your windows and run your air conditioning to filter air through your HVAC system.
  • Double check if your air filters need changed and consider using air purifiers.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your wellbeing, whether due to preexisting conditions or because you are starting to feel unwell.

Poor air quality is always harmful, but how you read the AQI for your own choices will vary based on your health. Here’s what the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment recommends: 

“A way to think of the safety categories is whether you should be exercising, heavily (e.g., running) or lightly (e.g., walking). If you are a healthy person, you can go running if the AQI is below 150 but should limit yourself to walking for an AQI of 150-200. For an AQI above 200, the only thing you should be doing is sitting quietly indoors. If you have some health issues, you should subtract 50 to 100 for each of the above recommendations, depending on the severity of your health issues.”

This might mean spending your Independence Day indoors. That might be disappointing, but it also means that you are prioritizing your longevity so that you can be here for many more Independence Days to come.