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CLEVELAND - This final week of April has been designated as "Air Quality Awareness Week" to better educate people about the effects of ozone and pollution in our air.

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is the local organization that monitors Northeast Ohio's air quality and issues advisories when the air is expected to become a health hazard to those with breathing problems.

Ozone and particle pollution are two of the most common air pollutants in the United States. While ozone is the greatest concern during the summer months, particle pollution can occur anytime during the year.

What is the difference between ozone and particle pollution?

Ground level-ozone pollution forms through through a reaction of heat and sunlight with volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides. These substances come from such things as gas fumes, industrial processes, car exhaust and power plant emissions.

Particle pollution is a mixture of small solids and liquid droplets in the air that come from smoke, exhaust, dust, pollen, gas and other sources. These fine particles are so small they can not be seen by the naked eye. In fact, they are about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair.

Our friends at Earthguage.net have several tips to help prevent air pollution and where to find useful information about today's air quality.

You can help protect air quality where you live. Saving energy at home, tuning up your car, taking public transit and filling your gas tank in the evening are easy ways get started. Learn more about reducing your contribution to air pollution.

· Air quality is important at every age. Are you at risk for health problems from ozone (sometimes called smog) and particle pollution? Children, people with asthma or another lung disease, healthy adults who are active outdoors, people with cardiovascular disease and people middle-aged and older may be at increased risk. Learn more about the health risks you may face.

· You can protect your health with simple changes. When the Air Quality Index (AQI) forecast reaches Code Orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) make some simple changes to your exercise plans. Try walking instead of running, and exercise away from busy roads to reduce the amount of pollution you breathe in. Learn more about air quality and your health.

· The Air Quality Index (AQI) helps you plan outdoor activities. Visit airnow.gov, download the AIRNow app, or listen to the local weather forecast to check the AQI in your area and plan outdoor activities accordingly. You can also sign up for AirNow EnviroFlash, a free service that sends air quality info to your e-mail.

· Don't forget to check the AQI when you're on the move. When you go on vacation or travel, check the air quality forecast for your destination. TheAirCompare tool can tell you what time of year an area has the best air quality. It also allows you to compare air quality between counties, based on specific health concerns or activity level.

Follow Frank Macek on Twitter @frankmacekwkyc

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