Air Quality Outreach to Older Adults            

KNOW THE CODE! is a multi-county effort to increase awareness and use of the air quality forecast system (code) to help older adults (55 and older) better plan their outdoor activities and take steps to protect their health.  

What we have to offer!

NC Air Awareness items are available for FREE to NC residents. Below is also a list of the educational materials we have, each with a link to a PDF version.

If you are looking for presentations, we can provide that as well. Depending on your location, we may be able to send a representative to provide a presentation. The program can be adjusted to best meet your needs and can range from 20 to 60 minutes. If desired, we can also include an Air Jeopardy game for some interactive learning.

If you would like to find out more about materials and presentations available in your area, please contact us at or 919-707-8400.

Why Focus on Older Adults?

Older adults are defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the NC Division of Air Quality as a sensitive group of the population who are particularly at risk to the health effects of air pollution. Older adults breathe more frequently and are more likely to have health issues such as lung and heart disease that can be impacted by poor air quality.

Particulate Matter and Ground-Level Ozone are the most common air pollutants in North Carolina. Particulate Matter (PM) is a mixture of very small particles and liquid droplets. PM is emitted from mobile sources (cars and trucks), residential wood burning, industries, and agriculture. PM passes through your nose and throat and enters your lungs. Short-term exposure may aggravate lung disease, acute bronchitis, and cause asthma attacks. Long-term exposure may lead to reduced lung function or chronic bronchitis.

Ozone is found in two regions of the atmosphere: at the ground level and in the upper regions. Both types of ozone are created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Upper atmosphere ozone protects the earth from the sun's harmful rays, while ground level ozone is the main component of smog. So, in terms of air pollution, when we discuss ozone we are referring to ground level ozone.

The ozone-forming pollutants are emitted from mobile sources, off-road vehicles, industries, and other sources. Mobile sources are the largest contributor of ozone pollution. Breathing ozone may trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and nasal congestion. It may also worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, reduce lung function, and inflame the linings of the lungs. Ozone is likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot, sunny days in urban environments. However, ozone can also be transported long distances by wind, so even rural areas can experience high ozone levels.

To learn more about air pollution, particulate matter, and ozone please the NC Air Awareness Frequently Asked Question page here.

Source: EPA Air Quality 

What can you do to protect your health? KNOW THE CODE!

The Air Quality Forecast (code) is an index for reporting the daily air quality within a specific county or region. Each color corresponds to a numerical range of the air pollutants emitted over an 8-hour time period.

The left column tells you the code and the right column tells you what the code means and steps that should be taken to protect your health. In North Carolina, Particulate Matter is monitored on a daily basis year-round and Ozone is monitored from April to October.

Air quality color guide, chart of air quality index and meanings

How to Get the Code

  • Call 1-919-707-8400 and ask for a member of the N.C. Air Awareness team to learn more.
  • DAQ forecast webpage
  • EPA website 
  • Sign up for EnviroFlash  which will send you an email with the code for your zip code. It will provide you with the next day's code as well as a three-day forecast. You can also choose to only be notified when the code is forecasted to be above a certain color.
  • Download the AirNow App for iphone or Android

Steps to Take to Protect Your Health and Reduce Your Contribution to Air Pollution

  • Move outdoor activities to the early morning or early evening when air pollution levels are typically lower.
  • Replacing strenuous activities with less strenuous activities because then you will be breathing less frequently. For example, walk rather than run.
  • Move plans indoors on red and purple days.
  • Reducing your contribution to air pollution can also help improve air quality. Some suggestions are:
  • Maintain your car: keep tires inflated, do not carry around extra weight, etc which will increase your cars efficiency and decrease the air pollution.
  • Carpool whenever possible, reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Utilize public transportation when possible.
  • Turn off your lights when not in use, since electric power plants are a major source of air pollution.