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School Flag Program Raises Air Quality Awareness

Wisconsin schools may soon display colored flags to represent the air quality on that day. Credit: American Lung Association in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin schools may soon display colored flags to represent the air quality on that day. Credit: American Lung Association in Wisconsin.
August 31, 2015

BROOKFIELD, Wis. – The American Lung Association in Wisconsin is providing air quality flags to school districts around the state free of charge.

The five colored flags reveal at a glance the day's air quality from good air to very unhealthy air.

Knowing the day's air quality is important all year, but this time of year it takes on more significance, says Katie Halverson, manager of respiratory health for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.

"Going back to school with football practice outside and track practice outside, on those unhealthy air quality days it's a good idea to either limit the time outside, make sure you're providing a lot of breaks, especially for children with asthma or other lung diseases, or maybe moving things inside if you can," she points out.

Halverson says during periods of unhealthy air quality, school children can continue to get plenty of physical activity with appropriate precautions.

Children and teenagers breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, because their lungs are still developing, which puts them at greater risk from air pollution.

School districts that want to participate in the flag program can contact the American Lung Association in Wisconsin at 800-LUNG-USA.

Halverson says the school flag program has benefits for more than just students, teachers and coaches.

"A school flagpole is pretty easily accessible,” she explains. “It's something that a lot of people drive past on their way to work and they're seen throughout the day, so it's an opportunity for the entire community to keep an eye on what the air quality index is for that day, and plan their days, too."

The air quality index color program is easy to understand. Green means good air quality, yellow means moderate, orange means unhealthy for sensitive groups, red means unhealthy for everyone and purple means very unhealthy air.

And Halverson says the flag program is easy to implement.

"We're just really lucky to be able to provide these flags to schools for free at this moment, and be able to provide them as well as a tool kit with air quality curriculum,” she says. “There are work sheets, there's sample press releases and letters, so it's really an entire guide for the schools to get so that they can implement it pretty easily."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI