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Wisconsin DHS Air Quality Safety Tips and FAQs

Spring is right around the corner and that means sunshine and warm weather but it can also mean a decrease in air quality. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to prepare yourself for poor air quality. The Wisconsin DHS can answer a lot of your questions about causes, who’s at risk, and how to find out if the air is safe to breathe.

What causes poor air quality?

Poor air quality can result from a combination of human actions and natural resources. Transportation is a common cause of poor air quality as petroleum is burned. Other contributing factors to poor air quality include wildfires and heat waves which can become more frequent as climate change unfolds.

In Wisconsin, exposure to fine particles and smog can provide health risks to anyone beathing them in, especially those with preexisting health issues.

When do I know the air is unsafe to breathe?

Air quality is measured by the EPA through the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is used to issue warnings when air quality will approach or exceed unhealthy levels. Daily AQI reports are shared by weather sources like meteorologists, TV, radio, and news outlets. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issues warnings when air quality is unsafe for sensitive people. The AQI is measured on a scale of 0-500 with air quality decreasing as the number increases. The index is broken down in the table below:

AQI Index
Range Air Quality Recommendation
0-50 Good Everyone: Little to no risk – anyone can be outside.
51-100 Moderate People Sensitive to Poor Air: Anyone sensitive to particle pollution should watch for common symptoms.

General Population: Little to no risk – can be outside.

101-150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups People Sensitive to Poor Air: Those sensitive to (asthma, heart or lung disease) should be on alert for symptoms and reduce heavy exertion

General Population: Spend less time outside and reduce extra exertion.

151-200 Unhealthy People Sensitive to Poor Air: Indoor activities or reschedule outdoor activities for healthier days.

General population: Spend less time outside; reduce extra exertion.

201-300 Very Unhealthy Everyone: Indoor activities only; reschedule outdoor activities for healthier days.
301-500 Hazardous Everyone: Avoid all outdoor activity; Use indoor air filters.

Tips for protecting yourself when the air is unsafe

When protecting yourself from poor air quality – have a plan and stick to it. The first thing you can do is sign up to receive alerts from the Wisconsin DNR and check air quality forecasts before you spend time outside. Use the links below to sign up for air quality alerts from the Wisconsin DNR and check air pollution forecasts:

Other tips for protecting yourself on days with poor air quality include:

  • Keep windows closed.
  • Avoid high exertion activities.
  • Take breaks often.
  • Consider wearing an N95 mask.
  • Exercise indoors.
  • Use indoor air filters and cleaners.
  • Don’t burn, wood, or trash, especially when windy.

For more information

Visit the outdoor air quality and health page linked below on the Wisconsin DHS website.

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