The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and The Bronx until 11:00 p.m. tonight. That means all the pollutants that we New Yorkers persist in calling “air” are getting stirred up with the heat and humidity, elevating the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the five boroughs to 101, more than double what would be considered “normal.”
What’s the AQI, anyway? Well, the DEC’s website puts it thusly:
The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. It was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale; the higher the AQI value, the greater the health concern. When levels of ozone and/or fine particles are expected to exceed an AQI value of 100, an Air Quality Health Advisory is issued alerting sensitive groups to take the necessary precautions.
This means that all the fine particles that shoot out the end of your cars, float up from your barbecue grills, creep away from your cigarettes, or otherwise take to the air are reacting with the sunlight, heat and moisture to weigh on your lungs. So if you’re sensitive to that kind of stuff – and that means anyone with lung disease, such as asthma – you should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.
Really, the takeaway here is that you’ve got a damn good excuse to chill out in some air conditioning. Feel free to print out today’s AQI forecast and tell your boss that going to the Post Office for him can actually kill you. Then spend that time surfin’ around Sheepshead Bites.