What is Air Quality Index?

Samantha Zeitz

Global data suggests that there could be as many as 330 million people suffering from Asthma right now. Sadly, this is just one respiratory ailment that can be triggered and/or aggravated by pollution.

In both Canada and the United States air quality is monitored on a daily basis. In Canada the system for monitoring air is called the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).

The AQHI is provided by Health Canada and Environment, and Climate Change Canada and shared with the public. In order to keep people up to date about air pollution in their area and how to protect themselves primary messages are sent out.

Here is how it works:

• There is a scale from one to 10 in relation to air quality and your health. On the scale, one is the lowest and 10 the highest. In some cases, air pollution can be severe, in which case the AQHI will report 10+.
• The level from the scale is put into categories. One to three is low risk. Four to six, moderate risk. Seven to 10 is considered high risk. Anything above 10 is very high risk.
• There are categorized messages provided for those at risk
• Hourly updates of the AQHI are available, accompanied by maximum forecast values for today, tonight, and tomorrow.

It’s important to monitor air quality to protect you and your loved ones from the negative effects of air pollution. Worldwide, air pollution is responsible for 3.3 million deaths annually. There has also been a link found between air pollution and lung cancer. By paying attention to the Air Quality Index you’ll know when to stay inside instead of breathing in air with high pollution content.

Other ways of protecting yourself against air pollution include: refrain from smoking indoor, find alternatives to driving your car, and use less energy.

If you have to be outside on days when air quality is not good, then at least consider reducing strenuous activity to reduce the amount of air you draw into your lungs.

For those who live in Canada, clicking on the link below and searching for your area on the map provided, will lead to information about air quality.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/cas-aqhi/default.asp?lang=En&n=450C1129-1