New York City was shrouded in a sepia haze Wednesday as smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed the East Coast and created hazardous air quality conditions.
Even though Chicago has so far escaped the worst effects, now's a good time to review the basics of the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index.
Current air quality conditions are available online at AirNow.gov, which is maintained by the EPA and can be searched by city, ZIP code or other location.
The AQI has six color-coded categories, representing levels of pollution and health concerns. Ozone and particle pollution (which can range from wildfire smoke to power plant emissions) are two of the most common causes of poor air quality.
The AQI dashboard will provide information on which pollutant(s) is responsible for unhealthy conditions and whether people should adjust activities or limit their time outdoors.
The six levels are:
— Green, good quality.
— Yellow, moderate concern; air quality is acceptable but people extremely sensitive to air pollution may be at risk.
— Orange, unhealthy for sensitive groups.
— Red, unhealthy for everyone; sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
— Purple, very unhealthy for everyone.
— Maroon, hazardous for everyone; emergency conditions.