Outdoor Air Quality
Outdoor air pollutants can impact health, from causing short-term symptoms like shortness of breath or coughing, to playing a role in causing diseases such as asthma or respiratory illnesses.
Dane County Air Quality
Our air quality continues to meet US EPA air quality guidelines with most days categorized as "good"; the best possible rating as measured by the Air Quality Index (AQI).
- Nearly 80% of AQI measurements in Dane County over the past 10 years were classified as "good"; showing the consistency of Dane County air quality.
- During the few days that poor air quality was reported in our community, the primary reasons were high levels of ozone and and/or fine particulate matter.
- Additional trend information is available in the Madison and Dane County Environmental Health Report Card – 2014.
Outdoor Air Quality and Your Health
- Breathing in ozone or particulate matter can cause throat irritation, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, asthma attacks and the worsening of other health conditions. Air pollutants can also play a role in causing diseases such as asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and cardiovascular diseases.
- Some people are more sensitive than others, but older adults, children and others with certain health conditions like asthma, emphysema, and with other conditions affecting the heart and lung should be cautious when air quality is poor.
How to Protect Yourself
Be Informed - Check the Daily Air Quality Index
Take Action When Air Quality is Poor
If the air quality index is orange: reduce physical exertion during your outdoor activities and reduce the amount of time you spend outside.
If the air quality index is red or worse: avoid all prolonged or heavy exertion and if you use an inhaler, keep it with you.
Sources of Air Pollutants
There are many things in the air we breathe that cause pollution, but here in Dane County, we are mostly concerned with ozone and particulate matter.
- Ozone located at ground level impacts the air quality and breathing it can cause health problems. Ground level ozone is created when exhaust from cars and industry mix with other chemicals in the air under sunny and warm conditions, mostly during the summer.
- Particulate matter consists of tiny pieces of dust, dirt and other materials suspended in the air we breathe.
- Breathing particulate matter can be bad for your heart and lungs.
- When there is a lot of it, it can make the air look dirty, hazy, or brown.
Other Air Pollutants
- Gasoline and diesel vehicles also produce air pollutants, such as benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and 1,3-butadiene.
- Wood burning stoves and fireplaces are an important contributor to indoor and outdoor air pollution and can impact the health of family members residing in your home and neighbors downwind, as well as degrade the air quality of our community, if the wood is not burned properly.
- Learn more about Wood Smoke Pollution
- Air pollutants emitted from sources outside of Dane County also affect our air quality. Many air pollutants can travel long distances and cause ozone or fine particulate problems in areas with limited sources of air pollution.
Improving Air Quality
- Whenever possible: walk, bike, skate, bus or car pool instead of driving your vehicle.
- Purchase fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Practice energy conservation at home and work.
- Purchase renewable energy from your utility and use other clean energy alternatives when available.
- Use Green Building techniques when building and remodeling your home or business to conserve energy and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.
- Install solar energy on your home or business and make your own electricity and hot water.