Understanding Air Quality Index Scores

As wildfire smoke fills the air, we often see and hear the Air Quality Index Scores.

Here is a breakdown of what the numbers mean so you can understand the Air Quality Index and how it relates to you.

What is Air Quality Index?Understanding Air Quality Index Scores

The Air Quality Index, AQI, was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to provide a score of the pollution by the most common air pollutants. This includes traffic pollution, wildfire smoke, and anything else that impacts the air quality. The score is based on national air sensors that provide readings to government agencies, who then notify the public.

How Do I Get the Current AQI?

The Air Quality Index is always changing so it’s much like checking the weather. You can notice when it seems to be getting bad, and check out the levels, or you can use the AQI to determine daily activities before you do them.

To check your local AQI, you can go to Air Now, a free website developed by the EPA and their partners. You can also check your local weather app on a smartphone or other electronic device and scroll down to Air Quality.

Using AQI to Plan Activities

If you are planning a hike and there is a high AQI indicating the air is unhealthy, it would be beneficial to postpone the hike and other outdoor activities and plan an indoor activity like bowling or a movie instead.

For those who are sensitive to poor air quality, it could be beneficial to look at the annual AQI reports developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Using this data can help you prepare for areas that are commonly affected by poor air quality, because they break down Air Quality Conditions by year, state, county and even city. To run an Air Quality Report for your area, go to the Environmental Protection Agency.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

The Air Quality Index uses numbers and colors to provide pertinent information at a glance.

To summarize,

  • 0 – 50 (Green) indicates a good score, and that there is little to no risk due to pollution.
  • 51 – 100 (Yellow) indicates moderate, meaning air quality is acceptable, however, there is some risk to sensitive people.
  • 101 – 150 (Orange) indicates unhealthy for sensitive groupsmeaning sensitive groups may experience health effects but the general public is less likely to be affected.
  • 151 – 200 (Red) indicates unhealthy, meaning the general public can experience health effects, and sensitive people could suffer more serious health effects.
  • 201 – 300 (Purple) indicates very unhealthy, meaning there is an increased risk of health effects to everyone.
  • 301 and higher (Maroon) indicates hazardous, and there is an emergency condition, with a high risk to everyone.

For questions or concerns about the air quality in your home and what you can do to improve it, contact us at Pilchuck Heating.


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