Sunday, May 10, 2009

Air Quality Index

We have a number of members who have respiratory conditions that are seriously affected by air quality. Air quality is an important issue for all of us as we can’t avoid breathing in the air around us. Diane Proctor has been looking into how consumers can access information about air quality and has written this post.

For those of us who suffer from respiratory diseases, we often do not understand why we feel so much worse on some days than others. Asthma sufferers, people with COPD, and related illnesses sometimes feel really breathless for no apparent reason. Having two brothers mad about flying and in the air force, I have long been interested in weather forecasting. (I too tried to get my private pilot's license back in my late teens but was thwarted by the cost!) As a result of this, I go to the Bureau of Meteorology's website regularly. In wandering around the site, I discovered that I could get air quality readings (or measurements of pollution in the atmosphere) from the Sydney area and also from most regions in NSW. This aroused my curiosity and I was even more interested when I sensed all was not well with the ACT air quality in Canberra a week or so ago. It was the day of the dust storms! I rang up the Bureau and was eventually connected to a very helpful person in Melbourne who explained to me that BOM does not have the instruments to measure pollution but if State Health Authorities give them the information they will publish it. He advised me to look at my local emergency services website Sure enough, there were pollution warnings published there. By chance, I happened to hear a health alert warning on the ABC regional station (666 here in Canberra) and I talked to the producer of the program. She told me that as part of its mandate, the ABC must broadcast such alerts However, no other broadcasters are obliged to do so.

So what does this mean for us? If you have a respiratory disease, I suggest you check the Emergency Service website regularly, especially if you feel unwell for no apparent reason. I also suggest that support groups for people with respiratory diseases try to encourage their Health Departments to convey such warnings to the BOM as a matter of course so that they are included in the regular weather reports. If we know we should stay indoors and close the windows, we could probably save a lot of visits to the ER rooms at Hospitals and thus save a lot of money. Also, we can watch a good movie and not worry!!!

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