Interested in how your more immediate area stacks up compared to the rest of the world? Look at real-time air quality data any day of the year to see what you’re inhaling when you’re outside.
Read on to find out more about how outdoor air quality is measured and how you can prevent side effects if you live in one of the states with bad air quality.
What is the Air Quality Index?
The Air Quality Index or AQI is a measure of the six major pollutants that the Clean Air Act regulates. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the six major outdoor air pollution contributors are:
- ground-level ozone
- particle pollution (also known as particulate matter, including PM2.5 and PM10)
- carbon monoxide
- sulfur dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
These pollutants have a national outdoor air quality standard set by the EPA that is meant to protect public health. Air quality is typically the worst on hot and sunny days since these conditions allow ground-level ozone to interact with particle pollution, contributing to the degradation of outdoor air quality. The Air Quality Index, running from 0 to 500, is divided into six categories:
- Good – Air quality is satisfactory with little to no risk.
- Moderate – Air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk to people who are sensitive to air pollution.
- Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups – Air quality effects may be felt by members of sensitive groups.
- Unhealthy – Members of the general public may experience health effects while sensitive persons may experience more serious health effects.
- Very unhealthy – The risk of health effects is increased for everyone: Will trigger a health alert.
- Hazardous – Will trigger health warning of emergency conditions, everyone is more likely to be affected.
How to Protect Yourself From Outdoor Air Pollution
Reducing your exposure to outdoor air pollutants is the best way to protect yourself. Check the AQI for your area in real-time and limit outdoor exposure if the results indicate that the air quality falls below “Moderate”. Try not to exercise outdoors and focus on improving indoor air quality (which can often be 5x as polluted as outside!).
States With the Worst Air Quality and Their Asthma Rankings
While examining air pollution data we also came across data on asthma from the CDC, specifically the number of asthma cases and the population percentage of people with asthma in 2018. Since outdoor air pollution can trigger asthmatic episodes and lead to other respiratory issues, we wanted to see if there was a correlation between the states with bad air quality, and the number of diagnosed asthma sufferers. Here are how the states with the worst air quality ranked in this category: