MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - If you're finding it harder to breathe you're not alone. The drought conditions are having a negative impact on air quality in the Mid-South.
It’s posing serious risks for everyone. The warm dry air with no cloud cover or wind is causing dangerous air quality ratings.
On Thursday, June 28 a Code Orange alert was issued. Chances are, those bad ratings are here to stay for a while.
Take a deep breath of the Memphis smog. It's a silent, imminent and invisible threat.
“Today we are forecasting a Code Orange which is unhealthy for sensitive groups,” said Michael Goldstein, an air pollution meteorologist with the Shelby County Health Department.
He says sensitive groups include children, the elderly, those with respiratory conditions and people who work outside.
“Somebody who is affected by Code Orange or Code Red conditions will feel what we call 'sunburn for the lungs.' It irritates the lungs which narrows the passage ways,” Goldstein said.
Poor air quality makes it harder to breathe and gives people the feeling they're dizzy, weak or ill.
Emissions from driving are said to be contributing the problem. This week, the air quality in Memphis jumped two levels in a matter of hours: from Code Orange to Code Purple.
“We haven't seen a Code Red, which is between orange and purple, in four years. And then when we saw purple it was unprecedented. We haven't ever seen a Code Purple in the Memphis area,” Goldstein said.
Unlike Code Orange, Code Purple poses a threat to everyone.
With no guaranteed rain or strong wind in the foreseeable future, dangerous air quality codes will be the norm.
Ozone levels determine our air quality ratings. Those levels are at their highest between the mid afternoon and the early evening.
Shelby County's Health Department is urging people to limit their driving and to avoid idling their cars more than 30 seconds.