AQI, the abbreviation for air quality index, was developed to indicate real-time air pollution as well as to warn people of the potentially poor air quality on a short-term basis. Many media outlets, like USA Today or CNN, provide AQI reports every day, so netizens are able to check the index online. On the website www.airnow.gov, for example, real-time air quality information is provided. And people who live outside the USA can find similar websites.
How does AQI work?
Basically, the value of AQI runs from 0 to 500. The higher the value is, the more severe the pollution is. For example, an AQI level of less than 50 indicates a good air quality, and will be represented by the color green. Under this circumstance, little to no health concern will be faced by any individual. However, if the AQI is over 300, the result will be hazardous to the entire population. A health alert should be released to the public.
To make it easier to understand, Dr. Era Upadhyay has created a table that shows the relationship between AQI values and their potential health concerns.
How is AQI calculated?
When calculating AQI, five major air pollutants will be measured. They are: ground-level ozone, particle matter (the infamous PM), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Instruments are used to collect air samples, and a value will be worked out for each pollutant.
AQI will only be determined by the pollutant with the highest value. That means if the PM AQI is 125, but all other pollutants are less than 50, the AQI result will be 125 – only the highest will be considered.
What should be done when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy?
The easiest way is to limit your outdoor activities when AQI rises to unhealthy levels. If you can’t avoid going out, then go when pollutant levels are lower, that is, in the morning or evening. Furthermore, heavy manual labor or exercise such as digging in your garden or running vigorously along the road should be avoided no matter what.
At the same time, if you detect any appearance of respiratory illnesses, a reduction of open-air exposure is a must. These symptoms include: coughing, throat irritation, a burning feeling in the chest or chest tightness, and shortness of breath.
Unfortunately, staying at home has its own disadvantages, as the air quality indoors may be as poor as it is outdoors. Individuals who are more sensitive to environmental pollutants but living in highly polluted areas should invest in an indoor air purifier.
Other than that, people in highly polluted areas should try to reduce the production of pollutants in the air. Everyone can achieve this by using public transport and energy-efficient appliances.