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Air Quality Survey Summary

Background

Good air quality is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle.  However, air quality can be diminished by both man-made (e.g., automobiles, industry, etc.) and natural sources (e.g., wildfires) of air pollution.  To ensure the quality of our air, the Environmental Protection Agency has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment.  Currently, there are six (6) principal pollutants for which there are NAAQS.  The NAAQS are often referred to as the criteria pollutants.  Of the six (6) criteria pollutants, ground-level ozone and particle pollution pose the most widespread health threats, but they ALL have the potential to cause harm to human health and the environment.

Although we can't live in a totally pollutant free environment, there are some things we can do to reduce air pollution such as join a carpool or substitute outdoor burning activities by recycling or composting waste.  We can reduce our risk for harmful health effects related to less than optimal air quality by paying attention to air quality forecasts such as DHEC's Ozone Forecast  and EPA's Air Quality Index.

Survey Goals

Gauging public awareness of environmental factors such as air quality can help regulators and policy makers to focus resources towards activities that can facilitate a healthier lifestyle.  Along those lines, SC EPHT conducted a comprehensive survey utilizing the nationally renowned services of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System otherwise known as BRFSS.  The goals of the air quality questions added to the 2013 version of the survey were twofold: 1) estimate the public's perception towards attributing a personal illness or symptom to outdoor air pollution exposure and 2) estimate the number of times the public adjusted their outdoor activities based on publicly available air quality forecasts.

Results

Overall, survey results for year 2013 revealed that only 6.9% of respondents said they thought a symptom or illness was caused by outdoor air pollution and 86.7% of respondents said they did not adjust their outdoor activities.  In addition, although it was first believed that the perception of one's source of illness and adjustment of outdoor activities would not be significantly different (based on a p-value being ≥ 0.05) across all demographics, the survey results revealed otherwise (p-value ≤ 0.05).  See below. 

Things like smog, automobile exhaust and chemicals can cause outdoor air pollution. In the past 12 months, have you had an illness or symptom that you think was caused by pollution in the air outdoors?

Demographics

Summary of Results

p-value

Education Level

Those reporting less education were more likely to say they had a symptom or illness caused by outdoor air pollution.

p=0.0003

Age

Older respondents were more likely to say that their symptom or illness was caused by outdoor air pollution.

p= 0.0002

Income

Those reporting less income were more likely to say that a symptom or illness was caused by outdoor air pollution.

p<0.0001

Please think of the past 12 months. How many times did you reduce or change your outdoor activity level based on the air quality index or air quality alerts? For example, avoiding outdoor exercise or strenuous outdoor activity. Please do not include times when you may have heard or read about high pollen counts.

Demographics

Summary of Results

p-value

Gender

Females were more likely to change/reduce activities than males.

p<0.001

Race

African Americans were more likely to change/reduce activities than those of other races.

p<0.001

Age

Older individuals were more likely to change/reduce activities than younger individuals.

p<0.001

Education Level

Individuals with less education were more likely to change/reduce activities than those with more education.

p<0.001

Income

Individuals with lower income were more likely to change/reduce activities than individuals with higher income.

p<0.001

Putting Results into Action

These results have allowed SC EPHT to provide this summary of the data and information to help with prevention, education, and other outreach efforts to stress the importance of reducing your exposure to air pollution.

Want to Know More?

If you want to obtain a detailed copy of the associated survey results, please contact the SC BRFSS coordinator, Ms. Harley Davis, at (803) 898-3629 or by email (Harley.Davis@dhec.sc.gov).

If you want to know more about air quality in our state, please visit SC EPHT's Air Quality website here EPHT Air Quality