Air quality index

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Smog in Shanghai, China, December, 1993--an example of air conditions typically rated as unhealthy Sha1993 smog wkpd.jpg
Smog in Shanghai, China, December, 1993—an example of air conditions typically rated as unhealthy
An annotated satellite photo showing smoke from wildfires in Greece, giving rise to an elevated AQI downwind 25August 2007 Greek fires.jpg
An annotated satellite photo showing smoke from wildfires in Greece, giving rise to an elevated AQI downwind

An air quality index (AQI) is used by government agencies [1] to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become. [2] [3] AQI information is obtained by averaging readings from an air quality sensor, which can increase due to vehicle traffic, forest fires, or anything that can increase air pollution. Pollutants tested include particulates, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, among others.


Public health risks increase as the AQI rises, especially affecting children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory or cardiovascular issues. During these times, governmental bodies generally encourage people to reduce physical activity outdoors, or even avoid going out altogether. The use of face masks such as cloth masks may also be recommended.

Different countries have their own air quality indices, corresponding to different national air quality standards. Some of these are Canada's Air Quality Health Index, Malaysia's Air Pollution Index, and Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index.


An air quality measurement station in Edinburgh, Scotland Edinburgh air quality measurement station dsc06786.jpg
An air quality measurement station in Edinburgh, Scotland

Computation of the AQI requires an air pollutant concentration over a specified averaging period, obtained from an air monitor or model. Taken together, concentration and time represent the dose of the air pollutant. Health effects corresponding to a given dose are established by epidemiological research. [4] Air pollutants vary in potency, and the function used to convert from air pollutant concentration to AQI varies by pollutant. Its air quality index values are typically grouped into ranges. Each range is assigned a descriptor, a color code, and a standardized public health advisory.

The AQI can increase due to an increase of air emissions. For example, during rush hour traffic or when there is an upwind forest fire or from a lack of dilution of air pollutants. Stagnant air, often caused by an anticyclone, temperature inversion, or low wind speeds lets air pollution remain in a local area, leading to high concentrations of pollutants, chemical reactions between air contaminants and hazy conditions. [5]

Signboard in Gulfton, Houston indicating an ozone watch SignboardAirQualityHouston.JPG
Signboard in Gulfton, Houston indicating an ozone watch

On a day when the AQI is predicted to be elevated due to fine particle pollution, an agency or public health organization might:

During a period of very poor air quality, such as an air pollution episode, when the AQI indicates that acute exposure may cause significant harm to the public health, agencies may invoke emergency plans that allow them to order major emitters (such as coal burning industries) to curtail emissions until the hazardous conditions abate. [9]

Most air contaminants do not have an associated AQI. Many countries monitor ground-level ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, and calculate air quality indices for these pollutants. [10]

The definition of the AQI in a particular nation reflects the discourse surrounding the development of national air quality standards in that nation. [11] A website allowing government agencies anywhere in the world to submit their real-time air monitoring data for display using a common definition of the air quality index has recently become available. [12]

Indices by location


Each of the states and territories of Australia is responsible for monitoring air quality and publishing data in accordance with the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (NEPM) standards. [13]

Each state and territory publishes air quality data for individual monitoring locations, and most states and territories publish air quality indexes for each monitoring location.

Across Australia, a consistent approach is taken with air quality indexes, using a simple linear scale where 100 represents the maximum concentration standard for each pollutant, as set by the NEPM. These maximum concentration standards are:

PollutantAveraging periodMaximum concentration standard
Carbon monoxide8 hours9 ppm
Nitrogen dioxide1 hour0.12 ppm
1 year0.03 ppm
Ozone1 hour0.10 ppm
4 hours0.08ppm
Sulphur dioxide1 hour0.20 ppm
1 day0.08 ppm
1 year0.02 ppm
Lead1 year0.50 μg/m3
PM 101 day50 μg/m3
1 year25 μg/m3
PM 2.51 day25 μg/m3
1 year8 μg/m3

The air quality index (AQI) for an individual location is simply the highest of the air quality index values for each pollutant being monitored at that location.

AQI bands, with health advice for each: [14]

AQIDescriptionHealth advice
0–33Very GoodEnjoy activities
34–66GoodEnjoy activities
67–99FairPeople unusually sensitive to air pollution: Plan strenuous outdoor activities when air quality is better
100–149PoorSensitive Groups: Cut back or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities
150–200Very PoorSensitive groups: Avoid strenuous outdoor activities. Everyone: Cut back or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities
200+HazardousSensitive groups: Avoid all outdoor physical activities. Everyone: Significantly cut back on outdoor physical activities


Air quality in Canada has been reported for many years with provincial Air Quality Indices (AQIs). Significantly, AQI values reflect air quality management objectives, which are based on the lowest achievable emissions rate, rather than exclusive concern for human health. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a scale designed to help understand the impact of air quality on health. It is a health protection tool used to make decisions to reduce short-term exposure to air pollution by adjusting activity levels during increased levels of air pollution. The Air Quality Health Index also provides advice on how to improve air quality by proposing a behavioral change to reduce the environmental footprint. This index pays particular attention to people who are sensitive to air pollution. It provides them with advice on how to protect their health during air quality levels associated with low, moderate, high and very high health risks.

The AQHI provides a number from 1 to 10+ to indicate the level of health risk associated with local air quality. On occasion, when the amount of air pollution is abnormally high, the number may exceed 10. The AQHI provides a local air quality current value as well as a local air quality maximums forecast for today, tonight, and tomorrow, and provides associated health advice. [15]

Risk:Low (1–3)Moderate (4–6)High (7–10)Very high (above 10)
Health RiskAir Quality Health IndexHealth Messages
At Risk population*General Population
Low1–3Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.Ideal air quality for outdoor activities
Moderate4–6Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms.No need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
High7–10Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also take it easy.Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
Very highAbove 10Avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion.Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.


Hong Kong

On December 30, 2013, Hong Kong replaced the Air Pollution Index with a new index called the Air Quality Health Index. [16] This index, reported by the Environmental Protection Department, is measured on a scale of 1 to 10+ and considers four air pollutants: ozone; nitrogen dioxide; sulphur dioxide and particulate matter (including PM10 and PM2.5). For any given hour the AQHI is calculated from the sum of the percentage excess risk of daily hospital admissions attributable to the 3-hour moving average concentrations of these four pollutants. The AQHIs are grouped into five AQHI health risk categories with health advice provided: [17]

Health risk categoryAQHI
Very High8

Each of the health risk categories has advice associated with it. At the low and moderate levels the public are advised that they can continue normal activities. For the high category, children, the elderly and people with heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to reduce outdoor physical exertion. Above this (very high or serious), the general public are likewise advised to reduce or avoid outdoor physical exertion.

Mainland China

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is responsible for measuring the level of air pollution in China. As of January 1, 2013, MEP monitors daily pollution level in 163 of its major cities. The AQI level is based on the level of six atmospheric pollutants, namely sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), suspended particulates smaller than 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10), [18] suspended particulates smaller than 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5), [18] carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) measured at the monitoring stations throughout each city. [19]

AQI mechanics

An individual score (Individual Air Quality Index, IAQI) is calculated using breakpoint concentrations below, and using same piecewise linear function to calculate intermediate values as the US AQI scale. and The final AQI value can be calculated either per hour or per 24 hours and is the max of these six scores. [19]

Chinese AQI Category and pollutant breakpoints [19]
Individual IndexUnits are in μg/m3 except CO, which is in mg/m3
IAQISulfur Dioxide (SO2) 24 hour meanSulfur Dioxide (SO2) 1 hour mean (1)Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) 24 hour meanNitrogen Dioxide (NO2) 1 hour mean (1)PM10 24 hour meanCarbon Monoxide (CO) 24 hour meanCarbon Monoxide (CO) 1 hour mean (1)Ozone(O3)1 hour meanOzone(O3)8 hour moving averagePM2.5 24 hour mean
Notes:(1) SO2,NO2, and CO 1 hour average concentrations are only for real time reporting. For daily reports, use the 24 hour average concentrations.

(2) If the SO2 1 hour concentration exceeds 800μg/m3, use the index from the 24 hour concentration instead.

(3) If the O3 8 hour moving average exceeds 800μg/m3, use the index from the 1 hour concentration instead.

The score for each pollutant is non-linear, as is the final AQI score. Thus an AQI of 300 does not mean twice the pollution of AQI at 150, nor does it mean the air is twice as harmful. The concentration of a pollutant when its IAQI is 100 does not equal twice its concentration when its IAQI is 50, nor does it mean the pollutant is twice as harmful. While an AQI of 50 from day 1 to 182 and AQI of 100 from day 183 to 365 does provide an annual average of 75, it does not mean the pollution is acceptable even if the benchmark of 100 is deemed safe. Because the benchmark is a 24-hour target, and the annual average must match the annual target, it is entirely possible to have safe air every day of the year but still fail the annual pollution benchmark. [19]

AQI and health implications (HJ 633–2012) [19]
AQIAir Pollution LevelAir Pollution
Health ImplicationsRecommended Precautions
0–50Level 1Excellent (优)No health implications.Everyone can continue their outdoor activities normally.
51–100Level 2Good (良)Some pollutants may slightly affect very few hypersensitive individuals.Only very few hypersensitive people should reduce outdoor activities.
101–150Level 3Lightly Polluted (轻度污染)Healthy people may experience slight irritations and sensitive individuals will be slightly affected to a larger extent.Children, seniors and individuals with respiratory or heart diseases should reduce sustained and high-intensity outdoor exercises.
151–200Level 4Moderately Polluted (中度污染)Sensitive individuals will experience more serious conditions. The hearts and respiratory systems of healthy people may be affected.Children, seniors and individuals with respiratory or heart diseases should avoid sustained and high-intensity outdoor exercises. General population should moderately reduce outdoor activities.
201–300Level 5Heavily Polluted (重度污染)Healthy people will commonly show symptoms. People with respiratory or heart diseases will be significantly affected and will experience reduced endurance in activities.Children, seniors and individuals with heart or lung diseases should stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities. General population should reduce outdoor activities.
>300Level 6Severely Polluted (严重污染)Healthy people will experience reduced endurance in activities and may also show noticeably strong symptoms. Other illnesses may be triggered in healthy people. Elders and the sick should remain indoors and avoid exercise. Healthy individuals should avoid outdoor activities.Children, seniors and the sick should stay indoors and avoid physical exertion. General population should avoid outdoor activities.


The Common Air Quality Index (CAQI) [20] is an air quality index used in Europe since 2006. [21] In November 2017, the European Environment Agency announced the European Air Quality Index (EAQI) and started encouraging its use on websites and for other ways of informing the public about air quality. [22]


As of 2012, the EU-supported project CiteairII argued that the CAQI had been evaluated on a "large set" of data, and described the CAQI's motivation and definition. CiteairII stated that having an air quality index that would be easy to present to the general public was a major motivation, leaving aside the more complex question of a health-based index, which would require, for example, effects of combined levels of different pollutants. The main aim of the CAQI was to have an index that would encourage wide comparison across the EU, without replacing local indices. CiteairII stated that the "main goal of the CAQI is not to warn people for possible adverse health effects of poor air quality but to attract their attention to urban air pollution and its main source (traffic) and help them decrease their exposure." [21]

The CAQI is a number on a scale from 1 to 100, where a low value means good air quality and a high value means bad air quality. The index is defined in both hourly and daily versions, and separately near roads (a "roadside" or "traffic" index) or away from roads (a "background" index). As of 2012, the CAQI had two mandatory components for the roadside index, NO2 and PM10, and three mandatory components for the background index, NO2, PM10 and O3. It also included optional pollutants PM2.5, CO and SO2. A "sub-index" is calculated for each of the mandatory (and optional if available) components. The CAQI is defined as the sub-index that represents the worst quality among those components. [21]

Some of the key pollutant concentrations in μg/m3 for the hourly background index, the corresponding sub-indices, and five CAQI ranges and verbal descriptions are as follows. [21]

Qualitative nameIndex or sub-indexPollutant (hourly) concentration
NO2 μg/m3PM10 μg/m3O3 μg/m3PM2.5 (optional) μg/m3
Very low0–250–500–250–600–15
Very high>100>400>180>240>110

Frequently updated CAQI values and maps are shown on [23] and other websites. [20] A separate Year Average Common Air Quality Index (YACAQI) is also defined, in which different pollutant sub-indices are separately normalised to a value typically near unity. For example, the yearly averages of NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 are divided by 40 μg/m3, 40 μg/m3 and 20 μg/m3, respectively. The overall background or traffic YACAQI for a city is the arithmetic mean of a defined subset of these sub-indices. [21]


The National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in New Delhi on September 17, 2014, under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. [24] [25] [26] [27]

The Central Pollution Control Board along with State Pollution Control Boards has been operating National Air Monitoring Program (NAMP) covering 240 cities of the country having more than 342 monitoring stations. [28] An Expert Group comprising medical professionals, air quality experts, academia, advocacy groups, and SPCBs was constituted and a technical study was awarded to IIT Kanpur. IIT Kanpur and the Expert Group recommended an AQI scheme in 2014. [29] While the earlier measuring index was limited to three indicators, the new index measures eight parameters. [30] The continuous monitoring systems that provide data on near real-time basis are installed in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. [31]

There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderate, Poor, Severe, and Hazardous. The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed. [32] Based on the measured ambient concentrations, corresponding standards and likely health impact, a sub-index is calculated for each of these pollutants. The worst sub-index reflects overall AQI. Likely health impacts for different AQI categories and pollutants have also been suggested, with primary inputs from the medical experts in the group. The AQI values and corresponding ambient concentrations (health breakpoints) as well as associated likely health impacts for the identified eight pollutants are as follows:

AQI Category, Pollutants and Health Breakpoints
AQI Category (Range)PM10 (24hr)PM2.5 (24hr)NO2 (24hr)O3 (8hr)CO (8hr)SO2 (24hr)NH3 (24hr)Pb (24hr)Colour
Good (0–50)0–500–300–400–500–1.00–400–2000–0.5Deep Green
Satisfactory (51–100)51–10031–6041–8051–1001.1–2.041–80201–4000.5–1.0Light Green
Moderate (101–200)101–25061–9081–180101–1682.1–1081–380401–8001.1–2.0Yellow
Poor (201–300)251–35091–120181–280169–20810–17381–800801–12002.1–3.0Orange
Severe (301–400)351–430121–250281–400209–74817–34801–16001200–18003.1–3.5Red
Hazardous (401-500)430+250+400+748+34+1600+1800+3.5+Maroon
AQIAssociated Health Impacts
Good (0–50)Minimal impact
Satisfactory (51–100)May cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people.
Moderate (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.
Severe (301–400)May cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases.


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.


According to Japan Weather Association, Japan uses a different scale to measure the air quality index.

AQIAQI typeHealth information
0–50Good (良い)There is no impact on humans. Outdoor activities are always allowed.
51–100Moderate (適度)Outdoor activities are often allowed because air is seldom considered unhealthy.
101–200Unhealthy (不健康)Outdoor activities are sometimes allowed because air is sometimes considered unhealthy.
201–350Very unhealthy (非常不健康)There are serious health hazards. Outdoor activities are seldom allowed.
351–500Hazardous (危険な)Pollutants trigger extremely serious health hazards to humans. Outdoor activities are never allowed.


The air quality in Mexico City is reported in IMECAs. The IMECA is calculated using the measurements of average times of the chemicals ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), and particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10). [33]


Singapore uses the Pollutant Standards Index to report on its air quality, [34] with details of the calculation similar but not identical to those used in Malaysia and Hong Kong. [35] The PSI chart below is grouped by index values and descriptors, according to the National Environment Agency. [36]

PSIDescriptorGeneral Health Effects
51–100ModerateFew or none for the general population
101–200UnhealthyMild aggravation of symptoms among susceptible persons i.e. those with underlying conditions such as chronic heart or lung ailments; transient symptoms of irritation e.g. eye irritation, sneezing or coughing in some of the healthy population.
201–300Very UnhealthyModerate aggravation of symptoms and decreased tolerance in persons with heart or lung disease; more widespread symptoms of transient irritation in the healthy population.
301–400SevereEarly onset of certain diseases in addition to significant aggravation of symptoms in susceptible persons; and decreased exercise tolerance in healthy persons.
Above 400HazardousPSI levels above 400 may be life-threatening to ill and elderly persons. Healthy people may experience adverse symptoms that affect normal activity.

South Korea

The Ministry of Environment of South Korea uses the Comprehensive Air-quality Index (CAI) to describe the ambient air quality based on the health risks of air pollution. The index aims to help the public easily understand the air quality and protect people's health. The CAI is on a scale from 0 to 500, which is divided into six categories. The higher the CAI value, the greater the level of air pollution. Of values of the five air pollutants, the highest is the CAI value. The index also has associated health effects and a colour representation of the categories as shown below. [37]

CAIDescriptionHealth Implications
0–50Good (좋음)A level that will not impact patients with diseases related to air pollution.
51–100Moderate (보통)A level that may have a meager impact on patients in case of chronic exposure.
101–250Unhealthy (나쁨)A level that may have harmful impacts on patients and members of sensitive groups (children, aged or weak people), and also cause the general public unpleasant feelings.
251–500Very unhealthy (매우 나쁨)A level that may have a serious impact on patients and members of sensitive groups in case of acute exposure.

The N Seoul Tower on Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, South Korea, is illuminated in blue, from sunset to 23:00 and 22:00 in winter, on days where the air quality in Seoul is 45 or less. During the spring of 2012, the Tower was lit up for 52 days, which is four days more than in 2011. [38]

United Kingdom

The most commonly used air quality index in the UK is the Daily Air Quality Index recommended by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP). [39] This index has ten points, which are further grouped into four bands: low, moderate, high and very high. Each of the bands comes with advice for at-risk groups and the general population. [40]

Air pollution bandingValueHealth messages for At-risk individualsHealth messages for General population
Low1–3Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.
Moderate4–6Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms, should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.
High7–9Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.
Very High10Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.Reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.

The index is based on the concentrations of five pollutants. The index is calculated from the concentrations of the following pollutants: Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, PM2.5 (particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 μm) and PM10. The breakpoints between index values are defined for each pollutant separately and the overall index is defined as the maximum value of the index. Different averaging periods are used for different pollutants. [40]

IndexOzone, Running 8 hourly mean (μg/m3)Nitrogen Dioxide, Hourly mean (μg/m3)Sulphur Dioxide, 15 minute mean (μg/m3)PM2.5 Particles, 24 hour mean (μg/m3)PM10 Particles, 24 hour mean (μg/m3)
10≥ 241≥ 601≥ 1065≥ 71≥ 101

United States

PM2.5 24-Hour AQI Loop, Courtesy US EPA Pm25-24a-super.gif
PM2.5 24-Hour AQI Loop, Courtesy US EPA

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed an Air Quality Index that is used to report air quality. This AQI is divided into six categories indicating increasing levels of health concern. An AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality and below 50 the air quality is good. [10]

Air Quality Index (AQI) ValuesLevels of Health ConcernColors
0 to 50GoodGreen
51 to 100ModerateYellow
101 to 150Unhealthy for Sensitive GroupsOrange
151 to 200UnhealthyRed
201 to 300Very UnhealthyPurple
301 to 500HazardousMaroon

The AQI is based on the five "criteria" pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. The EPA has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for each of these pollutants in order to protect public health. An AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to the level of the NAAQS for the pollutant. [10] The Clean Air Act (USA) (1990) requires the EPA to review its National Ambient Air Quality Standards every five years to reflect evolving health effects information. The Air Quality Index is adjusted periodically to reflect these changes.

Computing the AQI

The air quality index is a piecewise linear function of the pollutant concentration. At the boundary between AQI categories, there is a discontinuous jump of one AQI unit. To convert from concentration to AQI this equation is used: [41]

(If multiple pollutants are measured, the calculated AQI is the highest value calculated from the above equation applied for each pollutant.)


= the (Air Quality) index,
= the pollutant concentration,
= the concentration breakpoint that is ≤ ,
= the concentration breakpoint that is ≥ ,
= the index breakpoint corresponding to ,
= the index breakpoint corresponding to .

The EPA's table of breakpoints is: [42] [43] [44]

O3 (ppb) O3 (ppb) PM2.5 (μg/m3) PM10 (μg/m3) CO (ppm) SO2 (ppb) NO2 (ppb)AQIAQI
ClowChigh (avg)ClowChigh (avg)ClowChigh (avg)ClowChigh (avg)ClowChigh (avg)ClowChigh (avg)ClowChigh (avg)IlowIhighCategory
0–54 (8-hr)0.0–12.0 (24-hr)0–54 (24-hr)0.0–4.4 (8-hr)0–35 (1-hr)0–53 (1-hr)0–50Good
55–70 (8-hr)12.1–35.4 (24-hr)55–154 (24-hr)4.5–9.4 (8-hr)36–75 (1-hr)54–100 (1-hr)51–100Moderate
71–85 (8-hr)125–164 (1-hr)35.5–55.4 (24-hr)155–254 (24-hr)9.5–12.4 (8-hr)76–185 (1-hr)101–360 (1-hr)101–150Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
86–105 (8-hr)165–204 (1-hr)55.5–150.4 (24-hr)255–354 (24-hr)12.5–15.4 (8-hr)186–304 (1-hr)361–649 (1-hr)151–200Unhealthy
106–200 (8-hr)205–404 (1-hr)150.5–250.4 (24-hr)355–424 (24-hr)15.5–30.4 (8-hr)305–604 (24-hr)650–1249 (1-hr)201–300Very Unhealthy
405–504 (1-hr)250.5–350.4 (24-hr)425–504 (24-hr)30.5–40.4 (8-hr)605–804 (24-hr)1250–1649 (1-hr)301–400Hazardous
505–604 (1-hr)350.5–500.4 (24-hr)505–604 (24-hr)40.5–50.4 (8-hr)805–1004 (24-hr)1650–2049 (1-hr)401–500

Suppose a monitor records a 24-hour average fine particle (PM2.5) concentration of 26.4 micrograms per cubic meter. The equation above results in an AQI of:

which rounds to index value of 81, corresponding to air quality in the "Moderate" range. [45] To convert an air pollutant concentration to an AQI, EPA has developed a calculator. [46]

If multiple pollutants are measured at a monitoring site, then the largest or "dominant" AQI value is reported for the location. The ozone AQI between 100 and 300 is computed by selecting the larger of the AQI calculated with a 1-hour ozone value and the AQI computed with the 8-hour ozone value.

Eight-hour ozone averages do not define AQI values greater than 300; AQI values of 301 or greater are calculated with 1-hour ozone concentrations. 1-hour SO2 values do not define higher AQI values greater than 200. AQI values of 201 or greater are calculated with 24-hour SO2 concentrations.

Real-time monitoring data from continuous monitors are typically available as 1-hour averages. However, computation of the AQI for some pollutants requires averaging over multiple hours of data. (For example, calculation of the ozone AQI requires computation of an 8-hour average and computation of the PM2.5 or PM10 AQI requires a 24-hour average.) To accurately reflect the current air quality, the multi-hour average used for the AQI computation should be centered on the current time, but as concentrations of future hours are unknown and are difficult to estimate accurately, EPA uses surrogate concentrations to estimate these multi-hour averages. For reporting the PM2.5, PM10 and ozone air quality indices, this surrogate concentration is called the NowCast. The Nowcast is a particular type of weighted average that provides more weight to the most recent air quality data when air pollution levels are changing. [47] [48] There is a free email subscription service for New York inhabitants – AirNYC. [49] Subscribers get notifications about the changes in the AQI values for the selected location (e.g. home address), based on air quality conditions.

Public availability of the AQI

A global air quality map Global air pollution map.png
A global air quality map

Real time monitoring data and forecasts of air quality that are color-coded in terms of the air quality index are available from EPA's AirNow web site. [50] Other organizations provide monitoring for members of sensitive groups such as asthmatics, children and adults over the age of 65. [51] Historical air monitoring data including AQI charts and maps are available at EPA's AirData website. [52] Detailed map about current AQI level and its two-day forecast is available from Aerostate web site. [53]

History of the AQI

The AQI made its debut in 1968, when the National Air Pollution Control Administration undertook an initiative to develop an air quality index and to apply the methodology to Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The impetus was to draw public attention to the issue of air pollution and indirectly push responsible local public officials to take action to control sources of pollution and enhance air quality within their jurisdictions.

Jack Fensterstock, the head of the National Inventory of Air Pollution Emissions and Control Branch, was tasked to lead the development of the methodology and to compile the air quality and emissions data necessary to test and calibrate resultant indices. [54]

The initial iteration of the air quality index used standardized ambient pollutant concentrations to yield individual pollutant indices. These indices were then weighted and summed to form a single total air quality index. The overall methodology could use concentrations that are taken from ambient monitoring data or are predicted by means of a diffusion model. The concentrations were then converted into a standard statistical distribution with a preset mean and standard deviation. The resultant individual pollutant indices are assumed to be equally weighted, although values other than unity can be used. Likewise, the index can incorporate any number of pollutants although it was only used to combine SOx, CO, and TSP because of a lack of available data for other pollutants.

While the methodology was designed to be robust, the practical application for all metropolitan areas proved to be inconsistent due to the paucity of ambient air quality monitoring data, lack of agreement on weighting factors, and non-uniformity of air quality standards across geographical and political boundaries. Despite these issues, the publication of lists ranking metropolitan areas achieved the public policy objectives and led to the future development of improved indices and their routine application.


On November 12, 2019, Vietnam Environment Administration issued Decision No. 1459/QD-TCMT on promulgating Technical Guidelines for calculation and publication of Vietnam Air Quality Index (VN_AQI). [55]

AQI rangeAir qualityColor
0 - 50Good (Tốt)Green
51 - 100Moderate (Trung bình)Yellow
101 - 150Bad (Kém)Orange
151 - 200Unhealthy (Xấu)Red
201 - 300Very unhealthy (Rất xấu)Purple
301 - 500Hazardous (Nguy hại)Brown

See also

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A pollutant or novel entity is a substance or energy introduced into the environment that has undesired effects, or adversely affects the usefulness of a resource. These can be both naturally forming or anthropogenic in origin. Pollutants result in environmental pollution or become public health concerns when they reach a concentration high enough to have significant negative impacts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Smog</span> Smoke-like, fog-like air pollutions

Smog, or smoke fog, is a type of intense air pollution. The word "smog" was coined in the early 20th century, and is a portmanteau of the words smoke and fog to refer to smoky fog due to its opacity, and odor. The word was then intended to refer to what was sometimes known as pea soup fog, a familiar and serious problem in London from the 19th century to the mid-20th century. This kind of visible air pollution is composed of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxide, ozone, smoke and other particulates. Man-made smog is derived from coal combustion emissions, vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, forest and agricultural fires and photochemical reactions of these emissions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ground-level ozone</span>

Ground-level ozone (O3), also known as surface-level ozone and tropospheric ozone, is a trace gas in the troposphere (the lowest level of the Earth's atmosphere), with an average concentration of 20–30 parts per billion by volume (ppbv), with close to 100 ppbv in polluted areas. Ozone is also an important constituent of the stratosphere, where the ozone layer (2 to 8 parts per million ozone) exists which is located between 10 and 50 kilometers above the Earth's surface. The troposphere extends from the ground up to a variable height of approximately 14 kilometers above sea level. Ozone is least concentrated in the ground layer (or planetary boundary layer) of the troposphere. Ground-level or tropospheric ozone is created by chemical reactions between NOx gases (oxides of nitrogen produced by combustion) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The combination of these chemicals in the presence of sunlight form ozone. Its concentration increases as height above sea level increases, with a maximum concentration at the tropopause. About 90% of total ozone in the atmosphere is in the stratosphere, and 10% is in the troposphere. Although tropospheric ozone is less concentrated than stratospheric ozone, it is of concern because of its health effects. Ozone in the troposphere is considered a greenhouse gas, and may contribute to global warming.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indoor air quality</span> Air quality within and around buildings and structures

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the air quality within and around buildings and structures. IAQ is known to affect the health, comfort, and well-being of building occupants. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to sick building syndrome, reduced productivity, and impaired learning in schools. Common pollutants of indoor air include: Secondhand tobacco smoke, air pollutants from indoor combustion, radon, molds and other allergens, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, legionella and other bacteria, asbestos fibers, carbon dioxide, ozone and particulates. Source control, filtration, and the use of ventilation to dilute contaminants are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Ambient Air Quality Standards</span> US EPA limits on certain air pollutants

The U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards are limits on atmospheric concentration of six pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, and other health hazards. Established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under authority of the Clean Air Act, NAAQS is applied for outdoor air throughout the country.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air Pollution Index</span> Air quality measurement in Malaysia

The Air Pollution Index is a simple and generalized way to describe the air quality, which is used in Malaysia. It is calculated from several sets of air pollution data and was formerly used in mainland China and Hong Kong. In mainland China the API was replaced by an updated air quality index in early 2012 and on 30 December 2013 Hong Kong moved to a health based index.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pollutant Standards Index</span> Index to describe air quality

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is a type of air quality index, which is a number used to indicate the level of pollutants in air.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air pollution</span> Presence of dangerous substances in the atmosphere

Air pollution is the contamination of air due to the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials. It is also the contamination of indoor or outdoor surrounding either by chemical activities, physical or biological agents that alters the natural features of the atmosphere. There are many different types of air pollutants, such as gases, particulates, and biological molecules. Air pollution can cause diseases, allergies, and even death to humans; it can also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural environment or built environment. Air pollution can be caused by both human activities and natural phenomena.

Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials into the atmosphere, causing harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damaging ecosystems. Air pollution can cause health problems including, but not limited to, infections, behavioral changes, cancer, organ failure, and premature death. These health effects are not equally distributed across the U.S population; there are demographic disparities by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education. Air pollution has affected the United States since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

The Índice Metropolitano de la Calidad del Aire or IMECA, in English meaning the Metropolitan Index of Air Quality, is the reference value system for the levels of air pollution in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, within the Valley of Mexico.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air quality law</span> Type of law

Air quality laws govern the emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere. A specialized subset of air quality laws regulate the quality of air inside buildings. Air quality laws are often designed specifically to protect human health by limiting or eliminating airborne pollutant concentrations. Other initiatives are designed to address broader ecological problems, such as limitations on chemicals that affect the ozone layer, and emissions trading programs to address acid rain or climate change. Regulatory efforts include identifying and categorising air pollutants, setting limits on acceptable emissions levels, and dictating necessary or appropriate mitigation technologies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air pollution in Mexico City</span> Poor quality of air in the capital and largest city of Mexico

Air Pollution in Mexico City has been of concern to the city's population and health officials for decades. In the 20th century, Mexico City's population rapidly increased as industrialization brought thousands of migrants from all over the world. Such a rapid and unexpected growth led to the UN declaring Mexico City as the most polluted city in the world in 1992. This was partly due to Mexico City's high altitude, which causes its oxygen levels to be 25% lower. Carbon-based fuels also do not combust completely. Other factors include the proliferation of vehicles, rapid industrial growth, and the population boom. The Mexican government has several active plans to reduce emission levels which require citizen participation, vehicular restrictions, increase of green areas, and expanded bicycle accessibility.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air pollution in Canada</span> Overview of the air pollution in Canada

Air pollution is the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and the Earth. In Canada, air pollution is regulated by standards set by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), an inter-governmental body of federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for the environment. Air pollution from the United States and to lesser extent Canada; caused by metal smelting, coal-burning for utilities, and vehicle emissions has resulted in acid rain, has severely impacted Canadian waterways, forest growth, and agricultural productivity.

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a scale designed in Canada to help understand the impact of air quality on health. It is a health protection tool used to make decisions to reduce short-term exposure to air pollution by adjusting activity levels during increased levels of air pollution. The Air Quality Health Index also provides advice on how to improve air quality by proposing behavioral change to reduce the environmental footprint. This index pays particular attention to people who are sensitive to air pollution. It provides them with advice on how to protect their health during air quality levels associated with low, moderate, high and very high health risks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">NowCast (air quality index)</span> American environmental index

The PM NowCast is a weighted average of hourly air monitoring data used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for real-time reporting of the Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM (PM10 or PM2.5).

Ambient air quality criteria, or standards, are concentrations of pollutants in the air, and typically refer to outdoor air. The criteria are specified for a variety of reasons including for the protection of human health, buildings, crops, vegetation, ecosystems, as well as for planning and other purposes. There is no internationally accepted definition but usually "standards" have some legal or enforcement aspect, whereas "guidelines" may not be backed by laws. "Criteria/criterion" can be used as a generic term to cover standards and guidelines.

Air pollution measurement is the process of collecting and measuring the components of air pollution, notably gases and particulates. The earliest devices used to measure pollution include rain gauges, Ringelmann charts for measuring smoke, and simple soot and dust collectors known as deposit gauges. Modern air pollution measurement is largely automated and carried out using many different devices and techniques. These range from simple absorbent test tubes known as diffusion tubes through to highly sophisticated chemical and physical sensors that give almost real-time pollution measurements, which are used to generate air quality indexes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air quality guideline</span>

The World Health Organization guidelines were most recently updated in 2021. The guidelines offer guidance about these air pollutants: particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). The WHO first released the air quality guidelines in 1987, then updated them in 1997. The reports provide guidelines intending to give guidelines to reduce the health effects of air pollution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air pollution in Taiwan</span>

Air pollution in Taiwan is mostly derived from sources of domestic combustion, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. Taiwan's topography has been noted to be a contributing factor to its air pollution problem, leading to poor dispersal and trapping pollutants. Taipei, Taiwan's capital and largest city for example, is surrounded by mountains, and other industrial centers along the northern and western coasts of Taiwan are surrounded by high mountains.

Particulate pollution is pollution of an environment that consists of particles suspended in some medium. There are three primary forms: atmospheric particulate matter, marine debris, and space debris. Some particles are released directly from a specific source, while others form in chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Particulate pollution can be derived from either natural sources or anthropogenic processes.


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Some of the following websites display actively updated air quality index maps; others are archived versions of inactive websites: