New York State, including central New York, has been experiencing an increase in harmful fine particle pollution (2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller) as a result of wildfires occurring in Canada. Prognostications indicate that Canadian wildfires are likely to continue throughout the summer and in future years.
The United States’ Air Quality Index (AQI) is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) index for reporting air quality, which is measured on a scale of 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. AQI values below 100 are generally considered to be satisfactory. The high levels of particle pollutants in our area have resulted in the EPA issuing Air Quality Indices above 100 on several occasions since early June, with all indications pointing towards additional days where the Air Quality Index will be at unhealthily high levels in the near future.
A high Air Quality Index from particle pollution can cause a number of serious health problems, including coughing/wheezing, reduced lung function, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. Even healthy adults can experience these harmful effects, but children and teenagers are at greater risk because their lungs are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.
We understand that outdoor activity is a key part of many of our summer youth camps and conferences, however when the Air Quality Index is at a level that raises concern, we must take appropriate action to modify or cancel outdoor activity to help protect the health of all children, including teenagers, who are more sensitive to air pollution than adults.
Based on CDC recommendations and guidelines, when the Air Quality Index reaches harmful levels, the following modifications to outdoor activities involving youths on SUNY Oswego’s campus must occur:
- AQI between 101 and 150 - any outdoor activities involving youth must take regular breaks (rotating 30 minutes outdoors and 30 minutes indoors) and reduce the intensity of physical activities.
- AQI of 151 or higher - outdoor activities involving youth must be relocated indoors or rescheduled to a different date.
SUNY Oswego Campus Events and Conference Services staff will monitor AQI levels as reported on AirNow.gov, a partnership of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, NASA, Centers for Disease Control, and tribal, state, and local air quality agencies. If local Air Quality Indices exceed 100, Conference Services and Youth Protection staff will reach out to program coordinators of youth camps to inform them of the necessary modifications that must be made to ensure the safety of youth participants.
All buildings on the SUNY Oswego campus that would be utilized to host a relocated outdoor youth event maintain particle filtration systems that meet standards for filtering out particle pollution 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller.
For more information on Air Quality Index guidelines, please see the attached “Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution” issued by the Center for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and AirNow.gov.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact Gabriel Marshall, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs by email at [email protected].