Stop on Red: Reducing Exposure on High Pollution Days

Stop on Red: Reducing Exposure on High Pollution Days

RED ALERT! When air pollution levels are high, a red alert warns the public of health dangers. Poor air quality is bad for us all. It's an even greater risk for those with breathing issues.

Today, a national system leaving site icon reports daily air quality. The Air Quality Index (AQI) tracks the most common air pollutants controlled under the Clean Air Act.

All schools should monitor their local air pollution daily. It’s easy to do. Check leaving site icon for color-coded ratings in your area.

Protecting Students

Help students breathe easier at school with an action plan for high pollution days. During red and orange days, schools should: 

  • Adjust athletic activities  
  • Schedule physical education, intramural sports and other outdoor activities during “off-peak” times when high air pollution isn't as common
  • Offer low-impact activities for children with asthma  

Share information about the link between outdoor air pollution and asthma during staff in-service, student asthma education programs and parents’ night. 

When school administrators, parents and students all know about the effects of air pollution, they can work together to better manage risks and symptoms.

Know About Local Dangers

Many communities are exposed to pollution. Nearby factories and power plants can release harmful chemicals into the air. Diesel exhaust fumes, agricultural burning, crop dusting and forest fires can make breathing difficult for all students. Schools should monitor local health departments and air pollution control agencies.

Student Asthma Action Plans

It’s best for each child to learn how to minimize their exposure to outdoor air pollution. For kids with asthma, an asthma action plan lists their known triggers. Activities and exposure can be adjusted on high pollution days. For students with asthma symptoms, schools can help confirm triggers and share info with parents.

Sources: Air Data: Air Quality Data Collected at Outdoor Monitors Across the Us,   United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2022; Health Based Categories of Air Quality,   United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2022; Clean Air at School American Lung Association, 2023.

Originally published 6/7/2016; Revised 2021, 2023