Pa. DEP declares a “Code Orange” air quality alert

Written by on July 6, 2021

Pa. DEP declares a “Code Orange” air quality alert

By Megan Frank

July 6, 2021

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Some smartphones in the Lehigh Valley pinged with a ‘“Code Orange” air quality alert on Tuesday. 

It means air pollutants have piled up which can affect people with respiratory issues. 

Listen to the story.

The Air Quality Index is a national color-coded system that forecasts daily air pollutants, like ozone, particulate pollution, and carbon monoxide.

Dr. Robert Zemble, with Allentown Asthma and Allergy, says Code Orange refers to a buildup of ozone. 

“Ozone is one of those gases that can be both harmful and helpful,” Zemble says. “It protects us against UV rays but when it’s in the lower atmosphere that we breathe in, that’s when it becomes harmful. The hotter it gets, the ozone level will go up.”

Zemble says this is man-made ozone that builds up in highly populated areas and from gasoline-powered cars. 

He explains what being outdoors on a Code Orange day is like: 

“Think of it as an irritant for the airways,” Zemble says. “Those without asthma, we can probably do our normal activities. But the ones who have asthma, it causes their airways to constrict, and it leads to the kind of classical asthma symptoms of cough, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.”

He recommends that people with respiratory issues limit time outdoors on Code Orange days.

Pennsylvanians can find air quality reports by region on the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Air Quality Index page.

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