Ever look down at the weather app on your iphone and see some small text under the temperature that reads “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups?” Ever wonder what that means? And if you should be concerned?
Today we are going to be discussing exactly what that unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups warning means, and what you can and should do when you see it.
While this blog has been heavily nutrition-focused lately, but this post is going to tap into my Environmental Health Science MPH. May as well use it, right?
What is AQI?
Before we can understand what “Unhealthy Air Quality” means, let’s first talk about what it is and how it’s measured. Air Quality Index (AQI) is a term used by government agencies to communicate with the public how polluted the air is or is forecasted to be.
Generally speaking, the higher the AQI, the greater the public health risk. Different governments have different national air quality standards to classify different health risks and communicate these risks to their citizens.
How is the AQI Calculated?
In the US, the EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act, including particulate matter (read my whole post about what PM is here), carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
Air monitors collect and record pollutants over 1,000 locations across the country. The raw data is used to develop a separate AQI for each of the 5 mentioned pollutants. The highest of the AQI values from these 5 is reported as the AQI value of the day.…