Please see below for a press release from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) with tips to protect yourself while the air quality index is at unhealthy levels.
Employers Encouraged to Limit Outdoor Work, with Particular Concern for Vulnerable Employees
Information on Air Quality Index Found Here; Latest Forecast Found Here
Local AQI Indexes Found Here; Recommended Precautions Found Here
ALBANY, N.Y. (June 7, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health today shared recommendations on precautions the public and employers can take to reduce risks associated with exposure to unhealthy air quality levels, which continue to be present in much of the state due to Canadian wildfires.
All New Yorkers in areas with unhealthy air quality levels are advised to reduce outdoor exertion and avoid long-term exposure. Vulnerable New Yorkers, in particular, including those with heart disease, congestive heart failure, or a prior history of heart attack, and those with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other lung disorders, are asked to remain aware of their local air quality and take precautions as necessary. Employers should also take steps to reduce the risks for vulnerable employees.
“The Canadian wildfires present a common exposure to almost all New Yorkers right now.” Acting Health Commissioner James McDonald said. “Our risk from this exposure is based on our own personal underlying health condition. Those New Yorkers with underlying conditions such as lung or heart disease are at increased risk from this exposure and are encouraged to adjust their activities accordingly.”
The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation – which monitors air quality across the state – have again issued an Air Quality Health Advisory, currently for the Long Island, New York City Metro, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York and Western New York regions on June 7, 2023. Information on the current regional Air Quality Index (AQI) is available DEC's AQI site, and additional information can be found at the DEC's AQI Legend site.
For those who must travel outdoors for significant periods, properly-fitted, high-quality masks help reduce exposure. Breathing air polluted with fine particulate matter places strains on the heart and can quickly exacerbate heart conditions. The Department is asking everyone in areas where the air quality is unhealthy to limit exertion outdoors, if possible. An AQI greater than 100 indicates poorer air quality. Whenever possible, vulnerable individuals in areas with poorer air quality should keep windows closed, or use a purifier or air conditioner with a high-efficiency filter. In particular, elderly individuals and those with heart disease, congestive heart failure, or a prior history of heart attack, and those with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other lung disorders should take particular care.
The Department of Health also encourages New Yorkers to take advantage of other resources available to help them know understand more about AQI at https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/aqi-basics/, as well as their local air quality and what they can do to reduce risk.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color coded system developed by the EPA, with worsening air quality indicating greater personal health risk and increased need to take precautions. The unhealthy levels include:
- Orange AQI level (101-150): Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, which means members of sensitive or vulnerable groups may experience health effects.
- Red AQI level (151-200): Categorized as Unhealthy, means members of sensitive or vulnerable groups may experience more serious health effects, and some members of the general public may also experience health effects.
- Purple AQI Level (201-300): Very Unhealthy, indicates the risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
- Maroon AQI Level (301-500): Hazardous, with health warnings of emergency conditions for the entire population.
With current levels in impacted regions across New York State ranging from Orange to Red, the Department of Health is advising precautions as necessary. Steps for individuals and employers to take to reduce risk, include:
- When AQI is >150 avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
- Vulnerable individuals, including children under 18, adults 65 and older, and those with cardiovascular disease (e.g., congestive heart failure, history of prior heart attach) or lung disease (e.g., asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) should avoid exposure to the outdoors where Air Quality is designated Unhealthy or worse (AQI >150 https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/aqi-basics/ ).
- Individuals who are pregnant may be more vulnerable and become short of breath more easily, staying indoors when AQI is >150 is advised.
- When AQI is >150, some employees who are vulnerable should work indoors.
- Working or assigning work indoors, if possible, especially for vulnerable individuals.
- Working from home, or enabling employees to work from home, if travel to the office would increase exposure to poor air quality.
As these conditions persist, and in the days that follow, any New Yorker who experiences symptoms or have symptoms that worsen, especially those indicative of heart disease or a heart condition, should consult their personal physician or seek immediate medical help. If experiencing symptoms of respiratory irritation while outside, like coughing, first go inside to find cleaner air.