Indy’s air quality given F grade, experts explain who may be at risk

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new report from the American Lung Association said more than 40 percent of Americans live in places where they may not be breathing clean air. One of those is Indianapolis. 

The report gave the Circle City an F grade for its air quality. The American Lung Association looked at monitors for air quality in cities and counties across America over the past three years. The ALA has thresholds of days where the air quality is considered dangerous to meet each grade. 

While Indianapolis has seen improvement since last year, Angela Tin, an ALA vice president in Illinois, said it still had enough days of poor air to meet the mark for the F grade. 

Pollutants, heat and transportation are the typical factors in the pollution levels, according to Tin. She said transportation tends to be the largest contributor. 

“The cars we drive, the trucks that bring us deliveries, the buses, the trains all of that contribute,” she said.

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Dr. Nadia Krupp said there are certain groups of people impacted more by the poor air quality, people with sensitive lungs. That includes those with lung cancer, heart disease and asthma, which Krupp said has been increasing in children in Marion County. 

Krupp added that the risks can include “an asthma flare” from polluted air. 

She noted you shouldn’t be outside long if you have sensitive lungs on days where the air quality is dangerous. But sometimes people simply don’t know why they’re not feeling well. 

“Sometimes children with asthma report to us that being outside in the heat and humidity in the summer tends to flare up their asthma,” said Krupp, who is the director of the asthma program at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. “That may actually be an ozone effect.”

Part of the problem, Krupp said, is that unless there’s a haze, it can be hard to know the air’s condition. 

“You can’t necessarily smell or taste ozone. So just walking outside, it doesn’t smell funny. You don’t see it in the air,” she said. “It’s completely invisible.”

There are ways for you to check the daily air quality.  

There are also steps you can take to help reduce air pollution. That can include reducing the use of your car, or not mowing your grass on a particularly hot day, according to Lin. 

Lin said that can be challenging though, because of many people’s reliance on cars. However, she said to keep your car use in mind if you are able to walk, ride a bike or use public transportation.