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Learning About the Air Quality Index

The quality of air we have to live in is very important to all us. Many people today are sufferers of allergies and other breathing and respiratory ailments. More people than ever are being diagnosed with asthma and other allergies. A lot of this can be attributed to the many pollutants in the air today. Whether these pollutants are the result of pollen in the air, second-hand smoke, factories or other chemicals, many people are suffering from these things. Learning what the quality of the air is before venturing outdoors on a certain day can help us better protect ourselves. Fortunately, we have the Air Quality Index (AQI), to help us determine what the air quality will be on certain days in certain areas so we may adjust our schedules accordingly.

The Air Quality Index is and “index” that is used to report the air quality each day. It will tell you, based on a certain number, if the air is clean or polluted as well as any health concerns you may have on that day. The index can tell you any health problems you may have within days or even hours of breathing the air on that day. The AQI is determined by calculating the degree of pollution in five main pollutants: particle pollution or matter, ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. These air pollutants have been determined by the Clean Air Act to be the major pollutants affecting individuals regularly. Each of these five has certain national air quality standards set for them by the EPA, with airborne particles and ground-level ozone posing the largest threat.

The Air Quality Index is based on numbers from 0 to 500 with 0 representing good air and 500 representing hazardous air. In simpler terms, the higher the number on the air quality index, the higher the pollution level, whereas the lower the number the lower the pollution or health risk. An Air Quality Index value of 100 in the national air quality standard for pollutants set by the EPA for good public health. When the values first get to 100, they may be an unhealthy number for those that are sensitive to breathing disabilities. As the number gets higher, it becomes a risk for everyone. A value on the Air Quality Index of 300 or more represents hazardous air for everyone.

In order to make the Air Quality Index easier for everyone to understand, they’ve broken it down into six different categories, each color coded with the number scale. Good (green) is for numbers 0 through 50 and means satisfactory air quality. Moderate (yellow) is 51-100 and is for acceptable air quality. Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (tan) is 101-150 and means sensitive individuals with sensitive skin may be affected. Unhealthy (red) is 151-200 and almost everyone may experience problems. Very unhealthy (pink) 210-300 is a health alert, where everyone may have health problems. Hazardous (purple) over 300 numbers may contribute to emergency health problems and will affect most people.