I-Team: Investigating the air quality in the Tampa Bay area

Environmentalists, health advocates are concerned

TAMPA - Before you went to the beach or outside to grill last week on the Fourth of July, did you check how clean the air was in the Tampa Bay area? Should you?  

During drier days in the spring and summer, Tampa's air quality can be unhealthy for children, the elderly and people with heart and lung problems.

On a bad day, it can make asthma and other breathing problems worse, or even cause long-term problems for people who are exposed to pollution over long periods of time.

On Tuesday at 11 p.m., the ABC Action News I-Team will be investigating the air we breathe.

While Tampa has better air quality compared to major cities nationwide, some environmental groups say Tampa has the worst air quality in Florida. The American Lung Association gave Hillsborough County an "F" for ozone pollution.

We're looking at the biggest sources of pollution in Tampa and the impact they can have on children and the elderly.

But it's easy to find out on your own whether you should be concerned.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts out a daily number called the Air Quality Index, or AQI. An AQI of zero to 50 is considered "good." From 51 to 100 is "moderate." From 101 to 150 is "unhealthy for sensitive groups."

Anything higher than 150 is unhealthy for the entire population.

The air quality in the Tampa Bay area at the time of this posting is 49, just barely in the "good" range. On the Fourth of July, the Bay area's air quality was "moderate."

You can check the air quality anytime on the EPA's air quality website, airnow.gov .

Once you're on the page, you can enter your zip code on the top right and see what the current air quality is, as well as what it was like on previous days. There's even an iPhone app called "EPA AIRNow," which can show you the current air quality when you're not near a computer.

On days when ozone levels are high, the EPA recommends children with asthma or other respiratory problems play indoors instead of outside. Other vulnerable groups, including the elderly and those with heart or lung problems, are also asked to limit their time outdoors.

Do you have information about government waste, fraud or abuse? A tip about business misconduct that needs to be investigated? Email us at iteam@abcactionnews.com 

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