DPW explains why “Air Quality Advisory” was issued

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – People with breathing problems might want to be a little more careful outside — and not just because of the snow.

Indianapolis’ Department of Public Works issued an “Air Quality Advisory” Thursday, something they can’t ever recall doing during the winter months. Representatives say it’s far more common in the summer.

Sometimes we all just need a breath of fresh air. Just be careful where you’re breathing.

“I have not felt any ill effects from air within Indianapolis. I’ve run here, I’ve run in more country settings, suburban settings, nothing that I’ve been able to notice,” said Michael Gallagher, who was out on a run downtown.

Spotting poor air quality with the naked eye is nearly impossible, but thankfully there’s technology out there doing it for us.

“You can see the entire region yesterday was in what’s called the orange category, which indicates unhealthy for sensitive groups,” said Scott Manning, DPW, as he pointed towards his computer.

He knows the levels were high thanks to two meters in town. They measure the amount of pollution particles floating around. He says a reading less than 35 microns per cubic meter is good. More than 35 microns per cubic meter means people with asthma or respiratory issues might struggle breathing. More than 55 microns per cubic meter is unhealthy for everyone.

Thursday morning, the meters showed we hit nearly 98 microns per cubic meter.

“The condition that we were dealing with was primarily caused by a very large stationary high pressure front that was keeping our fine particles trapped in place,” said Manning.

In other words, we had warm air high in the sky and colder air near the ground. That created a dome effect, trapping the polluted air in Central Indiana. So should we have been concerned yesterday?

“If you have a day of physical activity planned, the air quality alert is not an indication that you should abandon those plans,” he said. “It’s just a heads up. It’s just a good idea when levels are elevated to be mindful of it, to keep in the back of your mind when out running, jogging. Be careful if you’re sensing some breathing difficulties things like that.”

Manning said air quality conditions can change by the hour because of the weather.

He says thanks to a cold front that came through Thursday night, Thursday’s “extra polluted” air has been pushed out east. It’s why the “Air Quality Advisory” was lifted Friday afternoon.

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