It's the first day of summer, and the air where I live in Maine is nice and clean, with low levels of particulates and ozone. But people living in other parts of the country aren't so lucky. According to the American Lung Association, 41 percent of Americans live in areas where air pollution can make breathing not just more difficult but dangerous.
How can you know what the air quality is like where you live? Well, you might turn to your smartphone for the answer. The American Lung Association's new State of the Air app (free for both iPhone and Android) not only gives you the air quality in your area for the next few days, it also lets you know if the levels of ozone or particulate pollution in your area are bad enough to put you or someone you know at risk. For example, the app warns that ozone levels between 101 and 150 are dangerous for people with lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes as well as the the elderly and children under 18.
"More than 40 percent of people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health," said Norman H. Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. "The State of the Air app is especially valuable in warmer weather, when ozone pollution peaks in many cities with long hot sunny days."
The app has a social element, allowing you to share today's air quality reports with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. You can also use it to find out how you can help fight for cleaner air in the future.
The app follows the Lung Association's release of its latest State of the Air report, which provides a report card on air quality in communities around the country. The report found that 22 of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities improved their air quality in the past year. Charles Conner, the association's president, said in a statement, "we're making real and steady progress in cutting dangerous pollution from the air we breathe. But despite these improvements, America's air quality standards are woefully outdated, and unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist across the nation, putting the health of millions of Americans at stake."
The American Lung Association introduced the new app with a new PSA depicting the delightfully oddball character, Alvin Grimes, air collector, who literally collects air in jars and labels them with their dates and locations. But the commercial comes with a serious point, stated in a voice-over at the end: "Think it's weird to collect air? You wouldn't think so if you saw what your lungs collect every time you breathe."
Alvin Grimes will appear in commercials, billboards, online videos and other venues. The commercials will only air when local stations donate the time, but you can view the initial video here: