Air quality alerts and what they mean for you

AQI  For Ozone and Particle Pollution
AQI Description, Green and Yellow
AQI Description, Orange
AQI Description, Red
AQI Description, Purple and Maroon
What to do when AQI is high
Posted at 2:42 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 17:42:13-04

Here in Western New York we've had a couple Air Quality Alerts already this year. In general you may know pollution is high and those very young or elderly or who have asthma or other sensitive conditions shouldn't over exert themselves outside while an alert is in place. The Air Quality Alert is based off an index, the higher the index value the greater the impact on these vulnerable groups.

What is Air Quality Index (AQI)?
It's the Environmental Protection Agency's way of issuing air quality alerts.
It ranges from 0 to above 300 and coordinates with colors.
As you look at the image below, green represents good air quality and an index of 0 to 50. As the number increases so do the hazards to people in our community.

AQI  For Ozone and Particle Pollution

Once levels rise above 51, those who are sensitive to air pollution need to take added precautions. A look at how ozone might effect you can be found by clicking here. Particle pollution may impact certain groups differently, those impacts can be found by clicking here.

AQI Description, Green and Yellow

Once levels rise above 151 and is in the red category, it's unhealthy for everyone. Sensitive groups should move activities indoors and avoid prolonged or heavy exertion, healthy individuals should reduce heavy exertion. If you start to experience shortness of breathe or coughing, you might have symptoms related to poor air quality and need to reduce your activity.

AQI Description, Orange
AQI Description, Red

Once levels rise above 200, sensitive groups need to reconsider rescheduling activities or move them indoors. If above 300, healthy individuals should avoid all physical outdoor activities and those with health concerns should stay indoors and limit physical activity especially if particle pollution is high.

AQI Description, Purple and Maroon

Below are some things you can do when AQI is high in your area. If you're concerned with children and air quality, the attached is for school guidance as Air Quality increases

What to do when AQI is high

There are five main pollutants the EPA considers when issuing an Air Quality Alert:

  • ground-level ozone
  • particle pollution
  • carbon monoxide
  • sulfur dioxide
  • nitrogen dioxide

However, we typically only deal with ground-level ozone and particle pollution. Cities larger than 350,000 are required to report the air quality daily, while other areas report it as a public service.

If you experience these symptoms, it's a signal to take a break or stop what you're doing.

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dryness or irritation of eyes, nose or throat.