The U.S AQI (Air Quality Index) is an index of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used to report daily air quality status.
How does the AQI work?
AQI runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous qauality.
Air quality grades
For each pollutant an AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to an ambient air concentration that equals the level of the short-term national ambient air quality standard for protection of public health. AQI values at or below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is unhealthy: at first for certain sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as AQI values get higher.
The AQI is divided into six categories. Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. Each category also has a specific color. The color makes it easy for people to quickly determine whether air quality is reaching unhealthy levels in their communities.
AQI Basics for Ozone and Particle Pollution
|AQI||Air Pollution Level||Health Implications||Cautionary Statement (for PM2.5)|
|0 – 50||Good||Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk||None|
|51 -100||Moderate||Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.||Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.|
|101-150||Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups||Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.||Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.|
|151-200||Unhealthy||Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects||Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion|
|201-300||Very Unhealthy||Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.||Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.|
|300+||Hazardous||Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects||Everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion|
To know more about Air Quality and Pollution, check the wikipedia Air Quality topic
Five major pollutants
EPA establishes an AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act. Each of these pollutants has a national air quality standard set by EPA to protect public health:
- ground-level ozone
- particle pollution (also known as particulate matter, including PM2.5 and PM10)
- carbon monoxide
- sulfur dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
What time frame it covers
It varies by pollutant. The ozone AQI is an 8-hour index; for particle pollution, it’s 24 hours.
Where can you get it
Metro areas with a population of more than 350,000 are required to report the daily AQI. Many more areas report it as a public service. You can find the daily AQI on airnow.com and on state and local agency websites. Some agencies also report the AQI via their local news media, or by telephone hotlines.
airnow.com collects Air Quality Monitoring data from U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to inform U.S. personnel and citizens overseas.