Do you know how healthy the air that you are breathing outside is? Do you know what the air quality is predicted to be tomorrow? The quality of the air we breathe can have a major impact on your health, particularly if you are living with chronic heart or lung disease. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides rates air quality by using the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI “tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.”
Specifically, the EPA calculates the AQI for five common pollutents: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. The AQI divides your local air quality into six categories, ranging from good to hazardous. Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. The six levels of health concern and what they mean are:
- "Good" AQI is 0 to 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
- "Moderate" AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.
- "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" AQI is 101 to 150. Although general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.
- "Unhealthy" AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
- "Very Unhealthy" AQI is 201 to 300. This would trigger a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.
- "Hazardous" AQI greater than 300. This would trigger a health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.
To learn more about air quality and how to protect yourself, click here: Air Quality Index - A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health.