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Air Quality Index (AQI)

What is the Air Quality Index?

The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. AirNow currently reports real-time data and air quality forecasts for ozone and particle pollution. (More on AQI).

What are air quality Action Days?

Action days are usually called when the AQI is forecast into the unhealthy ranges. Different air pollution control agencies call action days at different levels. (More on Action Days).

What you can do to reduce pollution on Action Days and every day

Air pollution can affect your health and the environment. Each of us can take steps to reduce air pollution and keep the air cleaner, and precautionary measures to protect your health.

These guides will help you determine ways to protect your family's health when ozone or particle pollution levels are elevated, and ways you can help reduce air pollution (What You Can Do).

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AQI-related programs and activities

In the US a number of educational resources are available for the community and community leaders, health counselors, schools and other community partners about the AQI and how individuals can take actions to help protect their health and the environment where they live. Scroll down to see what's available!

Your Health

Like the weather, local air quality can change from day to day. EPA developed the Air Quality Index, or AQI, to make information available about the health effects of the five most common air pollutants, and how to reduce your exposure to them. In the booklet, Air Quality Index, A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health (PDF, 12 p., 333KB, about PDF) , you will find information about these common pollutants and the AQI.

Health Care Providers

Here you will find information including an online ozone course directed to those who counsel patients about asthma, air pollution, or exercise. You will also find fact sheets on the AQI and heart disease, asthma and outdoor pollution, and posters for educating patients about the health effects of outdoor air pollution on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems (Health Information).

Fires and Your Health

Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn. The biggest health threat from smoke comes from fine particles. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases - and even are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions (More on Fires and Your Health).

Flag Program

The Air Quality Flag Program alerts organizations to the local air quality forecast and helps them to take actions to protect people's health, especially those with asthma (More information on how to get started, and educational and outreach materials).

Activities for School-age Children

Air Quality Index Kid's page By using three colorful chameleons, this Web page shows children how to moderate their activity to safely play outside when air pollution levels are elevated. (Ages 7-10)

Clean Air for Kids When is the best day to go outside and play? Buster Butterfly shows you when the air is clean and it's good to play outside, and when you might need to stay inside to play. (Ages 5-6)

AirNow Students Page Learn about ozone, particle pollution and the Air Quality Index by viewing animations or by using the online air pollution simulator "Smog City 2". Teacher's Materials (Ages 11 and up)

"10 Things Kids Can Do To Help the Environment" printable bookmark
Front (PDF, 1 p., 777KB, about PDF)
Back (PDF, 1 p., 756KB, about PDF)

Picture Book: Why is Coco Orange?- Green day, great time to play. Learn what colors can tell you about the air.

Teacher's Air Quality Resources

Here you can find a collection of resources for teachers that include easy-to-use and engaging lesson plans, activities and materials, educational opportunities, and online resources to teach students about the connections between air quality, health, weather, and other related science topics, as well as actions students can take to protect their health and reduce air pollution (More on Teacher's Resources).

Girl Scout Cadettes Journey - Breathe Air Quality

This lesson contains information about air quality and an activity to determine by observation what is in the air we breathe and what may be contributing to it (Girl Scout Cadettes Journey – Breathe Air Quality) (PDF, 7 p., 121KB,( about PDF).

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, May 12, 2015