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Extreme Heat Brings Air Quality Action Warning For Chicago

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When officials declare an Air Quality Action Day due to high ozone levels, those who exercise vigorously outdoors are at increased risk of breathing problems, as are children, the elderly, and those with lung diseases such as asthma. (Credit: CBS)

When officials declare an Air Quality Action Day due to high ozone levels, those who exercise vigorously outdoors are at increased risk of breathing problems, as are children, the elderly, and those with lung diseases such as asthma. (Credit: CBS)

Marissa Bailey (CBS) Marissa Bailey
Marissa Bailey is the weekend anchor of the CBS 2 Chicago morning...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Thursday’s extreme heat brings double trouble to the Chicago area. Not only is the heat dangerous, but the air conditions could make it hard for some people to breathe.

CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports an air quality warning has been issued for the Chicago area for Wednesday and Thursday, meaning certain groups might experience difficulty breathing due to high ozone levels.

Those at risk include people with lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema; children; the elderly; and those who exercise or work vigorously outdoors.

Dr. Susanna McColley, a pediatric pulmonologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital, said when she hears temperatures could top out at 101 degrees on Thursday, “My first thought is we’re going to get sick calls, and we’re going to see more kids in the emergency room.”

Six-year-old Amber Brooks has had asthma almost since she was born.

Her mother, Tennille Brooks, said, “When you can’t see your child breathe, it does something to you, that you feel helpless.”

It also makes her feel extra cautious on days with high temperatures and humid conditions.

Tennille said she doesn’t let her daughter go outside and play on a day when the temperature is more than 90 degrees.

“I keep her inside, or she goes in the back of the house,” she said.

Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs with the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, said “the higher the temperature, and the stronger the sunlight, the faster it makes the ozone pollution that’s bad for us.”

The Respiratory Health Association is same group that determined that Wednesday and Thursday are Air Quality Action Days – prompting a warning to people dealing with lung disease or other breathing issues.

“There’s a color system that they use for air quality called the air quality index,” Urbaszewski said.

You can find that index by downloading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s app for your smart phone, explaining each air quality color level.

“Today is supposed to be orange, tomorrow is supposed to be orange, and I think, probably, going into next week we’ll have to see. With the high temperatures, we might have a continuing situation,” Urbaszewski said.

Normal or healthy air quality is usually at the lowest level of green. The orange color grade is two steps up from that.

McColley advised anyone who wants to exercise on Thursday should do so indoors.

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