Jefferson + Shelby Counties under CODE ORANGE air quality alert — what you need to know

(Nathan Watson / Bham Now)
Have you seen the cloudy haze hanging over the city the past couple of days? (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

An unhealthy amount of particle pollution from fine particulates (PM 2.5) has been issued in Jefferson and Shelby Counties by the Jefferson County Department of Health.

What you should know: According to the U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), a Code Orange means that air quality is considered unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (including children, older adults and those with respiratory diseases like asthma). Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects and should limit prolonged outdoor exertion, but the general public is less likely to be affected.

What is causing air quality issues in Birmingham?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) color-coded Air Quality Index scale, from Code Green (Good) to Code Maroon (Hazardous). Jefferson and Shelby Counties are currently under Code Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups). (EPA)

According to the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH), smoke from the Canadian wildfires has moved into the area, causing a large increase of PM2.5 concentration. That’s not all—a thin layer of Saharan dust may move into the area as well. The combination of smoke and dust has increased PM2.5, triggering the Air Quality Alert.

Important: According to the EPA, Particulate Matter (PM) is the term use for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. PM2.5 is the term for small, inhalable particles with diameters of 2.5 micrometers or smaller.

Central Alabama isn’t the only region experiencing air quality issues today. The EPA’s AirNow Interactive Map shows Code Orange alerts in regions of Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

How can I help?

(Nathan Watson / Bham Now)
(Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

According to the Alabama Partners for Clean Air—an affiliation of public, private and nonprofit organizations working to improve air quality in the Birmingham metro area—there are several actions that individuals can take on Alert Days to help reduce air pollution:

  • Carpool or take the bus
  • Combine errands into one trip
  • Postpone unnecessary travel
  • Limit idling, ex. avoid drive thru’s
  • Mow the lawn another day
  • Don’t burn leaves or trash
  • Don’t fill your gas tank until after 6PM

To stay up to date on air quality alerts in Birmingham, visit the Jefferson County Department of Health’s Air Quality Forecast page and follow Bham Now on Instagram at @bhamnow.

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer at Bham Now

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