What does an air quality alert mean?

Linn County was one of eight in nation to receive CDC funding for violence prevention.
Linn County was one of eight in nation to receive CDC funding for violence prevention.(KCRG)
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 9:05 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Eastern Iowa saw an air quality alert that went into effect for part of Wednesday. During the day, Linn County Public Health says it observed elevated ambient levels of Ozone. The alert ended at 7pm on Wednesday.

They say Ozone smog forms when emissions from vehicles, utilities and boilers and fumes from paints, gasoline and chemicals “cook” or react in sunlight and warm temperatures to form ground-level ozone, a colorless gas capable of irritating lung tissue.

The Iowa DNR says it was issued in part because the wildfires in Canada are contributing to a high level of ozone in the air in Eastern Iowa.

Officials say many people may not notice a difference in air quality, but the alert means some people are at risk of respiratory irritation. That includes young children, older adults, and people with asthma or other medical conditions.

Wanda Reiter Kintz is the Air Quality Branch Supervisor with Linn County Public Health. She says the best thing to do to stay healthy when there is an alert is to stay indoors, but there are other options to limit exposure. “Instead of maybe going for a run, go out and take a walk instead, and you can also look at timing as well. Maybe start exercising in the morning. Typically ozone is elevated because of sunlight, so it’s going to be elevated in the afternoon and early evening,” said Reiter Kintz.

You can track air quality in Eastern Iowa through Linn County Public Health’s website, here.