What Does AQI Mean? The Basics of Air Quality Index

Understanding the Air Quality Index

Chances are, you have at least heard of the Air Quality Index, also referred to as the AQI. However, you might be asking yourself what it really means or how it is interpreted. The truth is, this is one of the most important things that you can listen to when it comes to understanding a daily forecast. aqi-indexIn short, it allows you to tell whether or not it is safe for you to be outside. It gives you an opportunity to learn whether or not there are any potentially unhealthy pollutants or other materials that you will be breathing in and it gives you an idea of the risk factors that you are facing.

What Is The AQI?

In short, you can think of the AQI as something of a forecast for air quality. Just as you would listen to the forecast to know whether it will be sunny or rainy on a given day, you can monitor the AQI in order to determine whether or not there are any special alerts with regard to the air quality that you need to be made aware of. This in turn can help you maintain a better lover level of health because it can prevent you from going outdoors when there are a lot of problems with the air quality. Since these problems can potentially cause a lot of different health concerns, it gives you a leg up when it comes to knowing exactly what you are facing on any given day.

What Does It Monitor?

The AQI monitors five potentially harmful issues with the environment. These include ozone, a potentially harmful gas as well as things like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate pollutants. While all of these things can potentially pose a hazard for the human body, the two that you should be most concerned with are pollutants and ozone. This is because they are the items that are most likely present in highly concentrated numbers, thereby posing the biggest problem.

Understanding AQI

In an attempt to make the AQI easy to understand, officials created a number of different categories that are designed specifically to give anyone that is retrieving this information an immediate idea of the risks that are associated with being outside during a particular time. A number is assigned to the AQI each day. This number can change throughout the course of the day.air-quality-index

  • For example, anything that is assigned to the system between 0 and 50 indicates that there is very little cause for concern, even among those individuals who already have pre-existing health conditions.
  • If the number is between 51 and 100, people that have severe breathing problems or cardiovascular issues might want to use an extra level of caution if they plan on being outside for an extended period of time. Otherwise, there is little need for concern when these numbers fall into the moderate category.
  • When a sensitive air quality index is assigned, meaning the numbers are between 101 and 150, those individuals who are sensitive to pollutants in the air might be adversely affected and should limit their time outdoors. Conversely, a number between 150 and 200 means that the air quality is unhealthy and no one should spend an extended amount of time outside.
  • If the number is between 201 and 300, the air quality is considered to be very unhealthy and might impact a wide range of individuals, even those who have never experienced problems before.
  • Finally, a number that ranges from 301 to 500 is considered hazardous. When the air quality is hazardous, it is anticipated that virtually everyone will be impacted in one way or another. It can become excessively dangerous for individuals that have health problems or who are especially sensitive to pollutants of any kind. The closer the number gets to 500, the more hazardous the situation is.


As you can see, understanding the AQI give you the chance to put yourself in the driver’s seat when it comes to taking charge of your own health. That way, you can avoid staying outside if there are problems with air quality and you can plan your day accordingly.



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