What is a Code Orange Alert Day?

What is a Code Orange Alert Day?

A Code Orange Alert Day is called when air pollution levels are predicted to become Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Code Orange levels are between 101 and 150 on the Air Quality Index.

There are two types of pollutants the Air Pollution Control Bureau monitors, and therefore, two types of Code Orange Days: ozone and fine particles.

Ozone Code Orange Alert Days are called when ozone pollution is predicted to reach unhealthy levels for sensitive groups. When this happens, active children and adults, and people with lung disease, such as asthma should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

Why should sensitive groups limit physical activity outdoors? When ozone levels become unhealthy for sensitive groups, these groups can experience symptoms including:irritation to the eyes, nose and throat

  • reduced lung function (the amount of oxygen taken in is less than usual)
  • asthma can be aggravated
  • lungs can become inflamed and the lung lining can become damaged
  • risk of developing lung illnesses increases.

Fine Particle Code Orange Alert Days are called when fine particle pollution is predicted to reach levels that are unhealthy for the sensitive population.When this occurs, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

Why should sensitive groups reduce physical activity outdoors? When fine particle pollution levels reach the unhealthy for sensitive groups range, symptoms can include:

  • irritation to the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing
  • lung function is decreased
  • asthma can become aggravated
  • a person can have a nonfatal heart attack
  • risk of developing chronic bronchitis.

What Can I Do to Reduce Exposure?

The most effective way to reduce exposure to high levels of pollution is to reduce time and exertion outdoors:

  • plan strenuous activity when pollution levels are lower
  • reduce the amount of time spent at vigorous outdoor activity
  • choose less strenuous outdoor activity (e.g., walk instead of jog).

How Can I Help Reduce Pollution Levels?

There are many simple ways to reduce pollution levels in the DMV. If each person living in DMV makes an effort to do just one of the following tips, pollution levels can remain healthy.

Days when ozone pollution is expected to be high:

  • Drive less – combine errands into one trip
  • Carpool, telecommute, or take the bus
  • Limit engine idling
  • Postpone lawn care until after 6 p.m.
  • Refuel after 6 p.m.
  • Turn up the thermostat 2-4 degrees
  • Use household, workshop, and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or try to delay using them when poor air quality is forecast.

Days when particle pollution is expected to be high:

  • Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
  • Avoid burning leaves, trash and other materials


Stay Cool!






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