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Catawba Is N.C.’s 1st College to Participate in EPA Air Quality Flag Program

October 3, 2017

Category: Alumni, Environmental Science, Events, Staff

epa-flags.jpgCatawba College is North Carolina’s first college to participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Flag Program. The College plans to raise one of five various colored EPA flags on a daily basis to help members of its campus community and the Salisbury-Rowan community at large be aware of each day’s air quality conditions.  The Air Quality Flags will be flown beneath the Catawba College flag on a flagpole located in front of the Hedrick Administration Building on W. Innes Street.

“Catawba has long been known as a leader in environmental stewardship and for its commitment to sustainability,” said Catawba President Brien Lewis.  “Our participation in this program is a small but tangible way that our institution can do our part to help inform individuals in the campus community and in the community at large of air quality issues that may affect them.” 

Lewis said Catawba’s Public Safety Office will take the lead “to both monitor and raise the daily air quality flags.”

One of five flags will be raised each day, the flag color determined by the Air Quality Index (AQI) color that corresponds to the expected level of air pollution for that day. By comparing the colored flags to the AQI, everyone who sees the flags will know what actions to take to protect their health.  Green signals good air quality, yellow is moderate, orange means unhealthy for sensitive groups (like children and people with asthma), and red signals unhealthy air for everyone.  A purple flag means the air quality is very unhealthy and sensitive groups should avoid all outdoor exertion while everyone else should limit outdoor exertion.


Local air quality can affect daily lives and it can change from day to day, season to season, and can even vary depending on the time of day. The AQI provides information about the health effects of common air pollutants, and how to avoid those effects. The flags alert people to that particular day’s air quality forecast, and then they can check the current air quality at so they know when to modify their outdoor activities, like exercising for less time or moving exercise indoors when necessary.

The EPA also provides a way, in addition to the Air Quality Flag program, for obtaining up-to-date air quality information.  Those interested may subscribe at to get the daily air quality forecast by email, or can download the AirNow app to get air quality on their cell phone. This is especially helpful for those who are sensitive to the effects of air pollution, such as children, adults who are active outdoors, people with heart and lung disease, and older adults.

For more information on the Air Quality Flag Program visit EPA’s AirNow website at

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