Staying safe and healthy with a little help from the Air Quality Index

August 14, 2014
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During summer, it’s not uncommon to hear newscasters referring to the Air Quality Index, or AQI. You might hear that the AQI is “Good” at 45 or that it’s “Unhealthy” at 183. The AQI is also often referred to by its color level: green, yellow, orange, red, purple, or maroon. It’s difficult to keep all of the numbers, names, and colors straight, so here’s a quick rundown of the AQI and how it impacts you.


Washington Post Air Quality Index

One of the many Air Quality meters seen in the DC area. This one is from the Washington Post.


What is the Air Quality Index (AQI)?

The AQI is EPA’s tool for communicating air quality to the public. It uses both a color-coded and numerical scale to report how clean or polluted the air is and what associated health effects might be of concern. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.


Image of the Air Quality Index


EPA calculates the AQI for 5 major air pollutants that are regulated by the Clean Air Act:

  • Ground-level ozone
  • Particle pollution (a.k.a. particulate matter)
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide

You can read more about the AQI on the DEP’s air quality webpage.


Image of the Air Quality Index for June 17, 2014

Image of Air Quality from June 17, 2014


How does the AQI impact your daily routine?

To answer this question, Clean Air Partners have developed a handy infographic (at right) to illustrate what type of precautions citizens should take during common AQI levels and what groups are most at risk.

In the last remaining weeks of summer and hot weather, be sure to keep an eye out for AQI alerts! In addition to catching them in the news, Clean Air Partners also has daily email alerts and a mobile app for Apple and Google Play. Stay informed and stay safe!


Clean Air Partners Air Quality Infographic

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