Charter school flies air quality flag to protect health

Long Valley Charter School is raising a brightly colored flag to help its students and community members be aware of daily air quality conditions.

The school has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Flag Program to help protect people’s health. This program is a partnership between the school and the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District.

Sherri Morgan, Long Valley’s executive director, said, “Our school and student leaders are looking forward to serving our community in such an important and meaningful way. We did not realize the extent of local pollution due to wood burning and want to help spread that knowledge.”

Each day, Long Valley Charter will raise a flag based on the color of the Air Quality Index (AQI) to show how polluted the air is expected to be. This flag will be located just outside the school’s office at 257 E. Sierra St. in Portola.

By comparing the colored flags to the AQI, everyone who sees the flags will know what actions to take to protect their health. Green signals good air quality, yellow is moderate, orange means unhealthy for sensitive groups (like children and people with asthma), and red signals unhealthy air for everyone. A purple flag means the air quality is very unhealthy and sensitive groups should avoid all outdoor exertion while everyone else should limit outdoor exertion.

Local air quality can affect our daily lives. And it can change from day to day, season to season, and can even vary depending on the time of day.

The AQI provides information about the health effects of common air pollutants, and how to avoid them. The flags alert people to that day’s air quality, so they know when to modify their outdoor activities, like exercising for less time or moving exercise indoors when necessary.

If the flag is orange, red or purple, residents are asked to avoid all wood burning. This is most important from November through February as Portola experiences wintertime inversions and smoke from residential wood heating trapped in the breathing zone.

This provides valuable guidance especially for those who are sensitive to the effects of air pollution, such as children, adults who are active outdoors, people with heart and lung disease, and older adults.

Clear the air

Check before you light. Go to www.myairdistrict.com before lighting wood burning heating devices (November through February). A health advisory will be posted when residents are asked to refrain from burning.

Get up-to-date air quality information by going to the Air District website at myairdistrict.com/index.php/air-quality-info/. Click on PORTOLA for current level of particulate matter (PM2.5) with an associated AQI color. PM2.5 is mainly very small wood smoke particles.

For more information on the Air Quality Flag Program visit EPA’s AirNow website at www.airnow.gov/flag .

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