Local air quality affects how you live and breathe. Like the weather, it can change from day to day or even hour to hour. This is why it is important to understand your local air quality and how it can affect your quality of life. A key tool in this effort is the Air Quality Index, commonly known by its acronym AQI.

The AQI is use for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is. It is a composite measure – that means its value is based on multiple data items. Usually AQI is measured from 1 to 500, with 500 being the worst air quality rating possible.

These measurements include particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), Ozone (O3), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) emissions. These are the most common air pollutants with proven ill effects on human health, though they are not the only harmful pollutants in our toxic air these days.

Many countries have their own Air Quality Indices. India’s National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched on September 17, 2014. The index was made by an expert group comprising medical professionals, air quality experts, academia, advocacy groups, and state pollution control boards. A technical study was also carreid out by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.

There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.

Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. The six levels of health concern and what they mean are:

  • Good (0–50) - Minimal impact

  • Satisfactory (51–100) - May cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people

  • Moderately polluted (101–200) - May cause breathing discomfort to people with lung disease such as asthma, and discomfort to people with heart disease, children and older adults

  • Poor (201–300) - May cause breathing discomfort to people on prolonged exposure, and discomfort to people with heart disease

  • Very poor (301–400) - May cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases

  • Severe (401–500) - May cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.‍

Using the Air Quality Index

Air quality affects your health constantly. This is why it should be an important consideration, whether you are planning to go for a run or searching for a school to send your kids to. To find out the AQI around you in real time, just log onto the Breezo dashboard.

To use the dashboard, enter your location and get detailed information about the air around you.

While it is not possible to control air pollution, you can limit your exposure to it. This is why it is important to know how to read the air quality index.

‍(Image Courtesy: Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality)