ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Thursday’s bad air quality is due to high ozone content in the ground air, as well as a lot of pollutants and allergens in the air. Orange air quality alert days are unhealthy for people with lung conditions.

“Mostly, the patients are preexisting patients that already have lung problems, are just feeling a lot more symptoms. A lot more coughing, a lot more wheezing, a lot more breathlessness,” said Dr. Shiraz Daud, a pulmonologist at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. “So, we’re getting lots of calls about that.”

Daud says if the air quality if affecting you, stay indoors and use an air filter. If you have to be outside, there are things to consider.

“Sometimes a mask can be helpful. Try to stay away from things that are really bad for the lungs, such as exhaust from cars, cigarette smoke, very polluted areas, grass, weeds, mold,” he said. “Those things just make it worse in this bad time.”

Persistent exposure to bad air over time can pose serious health concerns.

“Prolonged exposure to pollutants can sort of make our lungs age faster. And so you can develop all sorts of chronic problems: asthma, emphysema, and some people even say lung cancer,” Daud said.

Steve Hall, the director of the Air Pollution Control Program with the Department of Natural Resources, says they put out a daily Air Quality Index Report as a tool for the public.

“If folks are sensitive to air pollution and elevated concentrations, then that tool is there for folks to look at and make decisions about activities they want to do that afternoon or that day,” he said.

You’ll notice fluctuations in the pollutant numbers site-to-site, which depend largely on meteorological conditions, such as wind direction and precursor emissions with respect to ozone formation.

“For the Maryland Heights site, that site is west of a number of areas in St. Louis, so if the winds tend to be out of the east, we might expect the Maryland Heights site to monitor higher ozone on a given day just because of where the winds are coming from in the urban area,” Hall said.

When checking that Air Quality Index Report, you will notice a critical area listed at the bottom. On Thursday, Maryland Heights was one of those areas. Hall says this is the site that’s yielding the highest air quality index that day.