Appendix IV: Air Quality Index Categories
The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health. Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in this country.
Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. The six levels of health concern and what they mean are:
- “Good” The AQI value for your community is between 0 and 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk. (Green)
- “Moderate” The AQI for your community is between 51 and 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms. (Yellow)
- “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” When AQI values are between 101 and 150, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. This means they are likely to be affected at lower levels than the general public. For example, people with lung disease are at greater risk from exposure to ozone, while people with either lung disease or heart disease are at greater risk from exposure to particle pollution. The general public is not likely to be affected when the AQI is in this range. (Orange)
- “Unhealthy” Everyone may begin to experience health effects when AQI values are between 151 and 200. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. (Red)
- “Very Unhealthy” AQI values between 201 and 300 trigger a health alert, meaning everyone may experience more serious health effects. (Purple)
- “Hazardous” AQI values over 300 trigger health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected. (Maroon)
Additional information can be found on the Air Quality Index (AQI) Basics website.
Last updated: 1/26/2017