The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Air Quality Flag Program uses a nautical-style flag to provide information on expected air quality (based on the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index or AQI). A flag program has been successfully utilized in Maricopa, Pinal, Yuma and Santa Cruz counties. The program flies flags that match the warning levels of the AQI.
The AQI provides a uniform method of reporting the potential health risk posed by daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is and potential associated health effects. The AQI focuses on health effects that may be experienced within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. ADEQ, or a local air district, calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, the Environmental Protection Agency has established the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to protect public health. Please check ADEQ's Daily Forecast to see what sort of air quality forecast is available (e.g., some areas in Arizona issue high wind forecasts calculated by ADEQ, but not AQIs).
The quality of the air can affect how we live and breathe. Children are more susceptible because their lungs are still developing and breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Chronic exposure to pollutants, even at moderate levels, may permanently decrease lung function. Reducing exposure to outdoor air pollutants is a simple way to protect children. In Arizona, approximately one in eight children suffers from asthma and an additional one in five suffer from allergies. For children suffering from asthma and allergies, approximately 40 percent are impacted by outdoor air quality.
Like the weather, air pollution concentrations can change from day to day and even hour to hour. ADEQ strives to make information about outdoor air quality as understandable as a weather forecast. The AQI is used to provide information about air quality, the health concerns for different levels of air pollution, and how you can protect your health when pollutants reach unhealthy levels.
The FREE ADEQ Air Quality Flag Program acts as a visible reminder of what the air quality is projected to be and can easily be implemented at schools and community centers. The purpose of this program is to create awareness of outdoor air quality conditions so the public can modify their behavior and reduce physical exposure to various levels of air pollution. While this program is meant to be applied statewide, it may not be applicable in all areas due to regional airshed differences and different air quality monitoring. Currently, the flag program is available in Maricopa, Pinal, Yuma and Santa Cruz counties.
This Web site offers free tools for implementing a flag program. Materials may be adaptable for flag programs at other locations such as schools, community centers, health clinics and environmental or health agencies.