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Air Quality Index (AQI) Explained

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It is estimated worldwide that air pollution kills seven million people every year, and 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds who guideline limits. Here in the United States, the stats are a bit better but we still have an estimated 107,000 fatalities a year that are contributed to air pollution.

There are five primary air pollutants: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur oxides, and volatile organic compounds. The sources from all of these pollutants include electricity production, industry, and transportation.

How can you take action to keep yourself and your loved ones? Pay attention to the Air Quality Index (AQI), which is the Environmental Protection Agency’s index for reporting air quality – with each pollutant given an AQI value.

The AQI is divided into six categories with each category corresponding to a different level of health concern. Each category also has a specific color. The color makes it easy for people to quickly determine whether air quality is reaching unhealthy levels in their communities. AQI values at or below 100 are considered satisfactory, with a value 50 or below representing good air quality, and a value over 300 representing hazardous air quality.

AQI Chart
Finding the AQI in your area is quite easy – just go to the AQI tool and type in your zip code or city/state. If your air quality isn’t as satisfactory that day or time and you were planning to spend much time outdoors, try to find less strenuous outdoor activities or plan for another time. High levels of air pollution do affect your health, so plan accordingly.

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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