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The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color-coded scale used to effectively communicate the health impacts of air quality. Higher AQI values mean greater health concern since there is more outdoor air pollution. AQI values higher than 100 exceed the health-based standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A daily AQI value is calculated for each monitored
criteria pollutant: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. The pollutant with the highest AQI value is reported for that particular day. For the Charlotte area,
ground-level ozone usually has the highest AQI during the summer months and
particulate matter usually has the highest AQI during the remainder of the year.
When the AQI Color Code is GREEN or YELLOW, the air quality is considered acceptable and is not expected to have widespread health impacts.
When the AQI Color Code is ORANGE, sensitive groups may experience negative health impacts. Sensitive groups include people with lung or heart disease, older adults, active people, and children.
When the AQI Color Code is RED or PURPLE, the general public is likely to experience negative health impacts.
To protect your health on Code Orange, Red, or Purple days, you should limit prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors, especially in the afternoon hours when air quality is typically worse. Your exposure to air pollution depends on the length of time and level of exertion. Any activity that increases your breathing rate also increases your risk of exposure to air pollution. You don't need to stay indoors, but "take it easy" outdoors to reduce your risk.
The AQI is forecasted daily, just like the weather! You can get the AQI forecast from the
Mecklenburg County Air Quality homepage or the
EPA AirNow website. You can also subscribe to email or text notifications at the EPA EnviroFlash website. Check your local TV or newspaper weather report, especially in the summer months.