City air quality has improved, but still 'unhealthy'

If you stepped outside this morning and thought, less hazy, you might be right.

The city's air quality improved slightly from “very unhealthy” to “unhealthy,” according to the report airnow. govusing the official US Air Quality Index.

We are now – barely – in the “unhealthy” red zone – or 199 on a scale of zero to 500, with 500 being the dirtiest air.

Weather forecasters predict air quality will gradually improve this week.

People — especially the young, old and medically fragile — are still being encouraged to take precautions to protect themselves.

The Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Park District are keeping summer schools and campers indoors, and officials are encouraging the use of public transit and carpooling to minimize additional air pollution.

“Chicagoans should remain vigilant,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said Wednesday, encouraging people to avoid being outdoors, keep windows and doors closed, and limit driving.

People with respiratory ailments such as asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are urged to avoid being outdoors.

“Prolonged exposure to inhaled irritants can lead to worsening lung inflammation,” says Dr. Michelle Prickett, Northwestern Medicine pulmonary and critical care specialist. “This can lead to more emergency room visits. … ICU admissions will increase in the coming days if the poor air quality continues.”

City officials are providing personal protective equipment to vulnerable residents through outreach teams and agencies, urging city employees to work remotely, and monitoring the volume of 911 calls and hospital visits.

Prickett says there's been a 10% increase in patients calling lung clinics with questions and concerns about poor air quality in the past two days.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued an Air Pollution Action Day alert for Thursday, saying pollution levels in the Chicago area were unhealthy for sensitive groups.

“Businesses and residents in the region are asked to take voluntary action to reduce the contribution of air pollution,” the IEPA said.

Residents who do not have access to ventilated and safe indoor conditions can visit the public library, senior center, park district facility and Cultural Center for a break, the mayor's office said. Six community centers throughout the city are also open from 9am to 5pm Locations can be found at city ​​website.