As the last week in July has reminded us, summer is more than hot weather. The hot weather combined with the sun and pollutants from cars, lawn mowing and outdoor grilling combine to form ground level ozone which cause Ozone Action Days to be enacted, or Air Quality Action Days as they are referred to now.

This is a serious issue and I hope that residents pay heed to these warnings because air pollution does not need to be black to be dangerous.

It may actually be one of the failures to our success in that most of the air pollution today is not black because a white haze just does not seem as an ominous threat to your health.

However statistics for health problems related to air pollution in the region show that this is not the case. Almost 5,000 students in the Pittsburgh School System suffer from asthma. That is 14% of the children in our school system. And they are not the ones whose actions and behaviors are harming their health.

As a precaution on Air Quality Action Days, people with respiratory ailments like asthma, are recommended not to go outside. This is a shame because after being confined indoors for most of the winter, we should be able to go outside and enjoy the summer.

This is an issue not just for parents, but summer camp teachers who do not want to take their kids outside because of the worry about a child getting sick and the liability they might incur.

Besides the fact that it is just fun to be outside, several studies have shown that outdoor activities improve both a person’s mental and physical well-being.

So the question becomes, ‘Is clean air a privilege or a basic human right?’ I argue that it that it is a basic human right. And as such, it is each person’s responsibility to take actions or change behaviors that will diminish and eventually eliminate pollution.

So start with something simple, like taking the bus or walking to work one day a week.

And once this becomes a routine, like grabbing your cloth bags before you head into the grocery store, find a way to do this twice a week. Small actions that overtime become routine will lead to a better lifestyle and improved health for everyone.