State Shares Resources Related to Air Quality, Including Tips to Stay Safe and Health Hotline

(State of Michigan, June 28, 2023)

LANSING, Mich. – As Michiganders enjoy the outdoors this holiday weekend and throughout the summer, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is urging families to take precautions to protect their health and safety. These include the usual advice of applying sunscreen and using insect repellant, and now also include checking air quality before they head out.

“We are experiencing a unique situation when it comes to air quality in Michigan,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “Smoke from Canadian wildfires is affecting air quality across the state ranging from unhealthy for older and younger residents and those with underlying health conditions to unhealthy for all residents. We are urging Michiganders to check the Air Quality Index online regularly to determine if there are any actions they should take.”

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color-coded way for residents to see what the levels of some types of air pollution are in their area. The higher the AQI, the worse the air quality is and the more cause for concern.

Live color-coded air quality conditions that indicate if air quality is healthy (green) or unhealthy (yellow, orange, red and purple), along with steps to protect your health, can be found at the AirNow website and mobile app. Residents can also sign up for alerts through the EnviroFlash system. This subscriber system allows you to choose the area you would like to get alerts for, and it will send alerts directly to your email or send a text message.

MDHHS has set up a hotline for Michigan residents to ask health-related questions related to air quality issues. The number is 800-648-6942, and is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding holidays.

Currently the AQI for particulate matter is high in many parts of Michigan due to smoke and fires in the U.S., and particularly in parts of Canada. It is possible that the Canadian wildfires may last several more weeks. The AQI is also used for levels of other pollutants, like ozone.

Anyone can get sick from exposure to wildfire smoke, but some people are more sensitive to particle pollution. Older adults aged 65 and older, pregnant people, children, and people with lung and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke. Symptoms from breathing in particle pollution can include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. If you have asthma, follow your asthma control action plan or contact your health care provider if you have symptoms. If you have heart disease and experience these symptoms, contact your health care provider.

The most protective option when air is unhealthy is to stay indoors with air conditioning, reduce strenuous activities and limit outdoor activities. If you must be outside, N95 masks offer enhanced protection when used according to product instructions.

During unhealthy for sensitive groups (AQI orange) to unhealthy for everyone air quality events (AQI red), MDHHS advises the following:

For people with heart or lung disease, pregnant people, older adults aged 65+, children and teens it is suggested to take the following steps to reduce exposure:

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
  • Keep outdoor activities short.
  • Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them.

For everyone else:

  • Choose less strenuous activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard.
  • Shorten the amount of time you are active outdoors.
  • Be active outdoors when air quality is better.

During very unhealthy (AQI purple) or hazardous for everyone (AQI maroon) air quality, MDHHS advises the following for everyone:

  • Stay indoors with the doors and windows closed using MERV-13 or better air filtration.
    • Seek shelter elsewhere if you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed. Call or text 211 or contact your local health department to find out if there is a shelter or cooling center nearby.
    • Use air filters to improve indoor air quality. Whether you have a central air conditioning system or a portable room unit, use high efficiency filters to capture fine particles from smoke. If you don’t have access to those filter systems, you can create a temporary air purifier with a 2012 or newer box fan and attaching a MERV-13 or higher air filter to it. Information is available online.
  • Keep activity levels low.
  • Avoid outdoor activities.
  • Use N95 style masks if you have to be outside.
    • Surgical and cloth masks are not recommended as they are not designed to prevent breathing in the fine particulate matter in wildfire smoke.

Additional helpful resources:

These resources may be helpful to you if you are looking to learn more about air quality in your area, specifically around wildfires and smoke impacts.

image_pdfSave this post to PDFimage_printPrint this post