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Air Quality Index: What to do if the air quality in your region is bad?



  Air Pollution

Air pollution is more prevalent in large cities, but it can be anywhere.


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If you live in a big city, you may eventually see an air quality alert on your phone or weather app, especially if you were near the forest fires that devastated the north and south of California in recent years , But do you know what they mean and what to do when you get alerted?

You know that pollution is harmful to health and clean air is important. But sometimes you may feel powerless if you live in a polluted area, because you can not just hide forever near your air purifier. Fortunately, the US Environmental Protection Agency has created a resource called the Air Quality Index (AQI) to help monitor air quality so people can understand the impact on their health.

How does the AQI work?

The AQI indicates how clean or polluted the air in your area is and what the effects of inhaling outside air on your health can be. The AQI forecast is available in 400 US cities and you can view regional maps that assess air quality in the US and Canada. The index is on a scale of 0 to 500 (0 means clean air and 500 heavy pollution). Outside the US, you can check the World Air Quality Index for air pollution levels worldwide.

The AQI considers five of the major air pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act. These pollutants are ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

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The Air Quality Index scale rates air quality on a scale of 0 to 500, with 0 being the cleanest and 500 the most dangerous.


Screenshot of Mercey Livingston / CNET

What each AQI category means:

  • Good (Green): 0-50 AQI means that there is little or no health risk associated with air quality.
  • Medium (Yellow): 51-100 AQI indicates acceptable air quality. However, some people who are sensitive to pollution or who suffer from respiratory problems may experience adverse effects depending on the nature of the contaminants in the air.
  • Unhealthy for sensitive groups (Orange): 101-150 means that there is a health risk for children, older adults, and people with heart and lung disease. It is unlikely that the generally healthy population is exposed to health risks.
  • Unhealthy (Red) : 151-200 AQI are considered unsafe and anyone can have negative health effects from air pollution.
  • Very Unhealthy (Purple) : 201-300 AQI is a serious health risk for everyone and you may see a warning message on your phone or weather app.
  • Dangerous (Maroon) : 300 or more AQIs are considered dangerous and it is likely that an emergency or evacuation alert will be issued.

What to do if the air quality in your region is poor


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A face mask can protect you from air pollution as long as it is the right type of mask.


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If the air quality in your area is compromised, you can take various measures to protect yourself. Special attention should be given to those who have impaired the health of the respiratory system, the lungs or the heart, as well as children and older adults who are generally more vulnerable.

If the air quality is unhealthy (101-150), the AQI website recommends that people who are sensitive to pollution (ie people with lung disease, asthma, children, older adults, and outdoor workers) reduce or reduce their time limit work or activities outside spend. If the air quality is in a moderate range (51-100), you can still protect yourself by reducing outdoor time when you are concerned that you may be sensitive to soiling.

If the air quality is unhealthy or red (151-200), the AQI recommends that people with limited health avoid prolonged work or outdoor activities. All others who are not impaired should limit the amount of time they spend outdoors.

If air quality is in a very unhealthy or dangerous area, there is a possibility that media, weather apps, and more may trigger an emergency alarm. If this is the case, everyone should avoid as much as possible going outside and being exposed to the air. People with limited health should not go outside to protect themselves at all.

If you worry about the air quality in your environment, wearing a face mask can help with any contact with the affected air. Make sure your mask is classified as N95 and fits snugly on your nose and mouth. Surgical masks, medical masks and bandanas, which are bound by noise and mouth, do not filter harmful air pollutants and do not protect them.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider if you have questions about a disease or health goals.


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