How safe is the air? Here’s how to check and what the numbers mean

June 8, 2023  -NEW YORK (AP) — How can you check the air quality in your area and what do the numbers mean?

The Environmental Protection Agency monitors the air around the country and compiles an air quality index, or AQI.

Here’s what to know about the index and how to keep tabs on your area, especially in U.S. regions dealing with smoke from Canadian wildfires.


The index rates how clean or polluted the air is each day. The EPA uses this measure to keep tabs on five kinds of air pollutants. The main concern from the wildfire smoke is fine particle pollution, or PM2.5. These particles are tiny enough to get deep into the lungs. They can cause short-term problems like coughing and itchy eyes, and in the long run, can affect the lungs and heart.

The index runs from zero to 500. The higher the number, the worse the air quality. That range is broken down into six color-coded categories. Green or yellow — in the zero to 100 range — the air is pretty clear. Once it gets up to orange, the air quality could be a concern for sensitive groups like kids, older adults or those with health conditions.

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