Stop on Red: Reducing Exposure on High Pollution Days

Stop on Red: Reducing Exposure on High Pollution Days

Stop on Red: Reducing Exposure on High Pollution Days

RED ALERT! When air pollution levels are high, a red alert warns the public of health dangers. Poor air quality is bad for us all, but it poses an even greater risk for those with breathing issues.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leaving site icon created a national, standardized system to report and forecast daily air quality. The Air Quality Index (AQI) tracks the most common air pollutants controlled under the Clean Air Act.

All schools should monitor their local air pollution daily. It’s easy to do. Check leaving site icon for color-coded ratings in your area.

Protecting Students

One of the first steps to help students breathe easier at school is to create an action plan for high pollution days. During red and orange days, schools should: 

  • Adjust athletic activities  
  • Schedule physical education, intramural sports and other outdoor activities during “off-peak” times when high air pollution is not as common
  • Offer low-impact activities for children with asthma and environmental sensitivities  

Schools should share information about the link between outdoor air pollution and asthma during staff in-service, student asthma education programs and parents’ night. 

When school administrators, parents and students all know about the effects of air pollution, they can work together to better manage risks and symptoms.

Know About Local Dangers

Many communities are exposed to pollution from nearby factories and power plants that can release harmful chemicals into the air. Diesel exhaust fumes, agricultural burning, crop dusting and forest fires can also make breathing difficult for all  students. As a result, schools should monitor local health departments and air pollution control agencies.

Student Asthma Action Plans

For students with known sensitivities, it’s best for each child to learn how to minimize their exposure to outdoor air pollution. An asthma action plan should note the child’s known triggers – including air pollutants. Activities and exposure can then be adjusted on high pollution days. For students with asthma symptoms, schools can help confirm air pollution triggers and share the info with parents and the child’s doctor.

Learn More

Here are some helpful reference materials from the American Lung Association:

To learn more about Asthma and the Taking on Asthma initiative, visit our website.

Sources: Air Data: Air Quality Data Collected at Outdoor Monitors Across the Us,   United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2021; Health Based Categories of Air Quality,   United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2019; Clean Air at School American Lung Association, 2020.

Originally published 6/7/2016; Revised 2021