A study exercised by the New England Journal of Medicine gathered data from 24 major cities of the world, including New York, Mexico, and London, and some Indian cities too. Results are shocking when it comes to the extent of the Air Quality Index in that accumulated data. It proves that the quality of air and air pollution causes seven million deaths per year, across the globe.
Such deterioration in the air condition has led to several health problems in all living organisms. Some of the commonly prevalent diseases are:
- Respiratory disorders
- Damages to the cardiovascular system
- Headaches, anxiety, and fatigue
- Skin irritation and diseases
- Excessive damage to the reproductive organs
- Damage to the kidneys and liver
- Problems to the nervous system
These diseases and health hazards affect adults and older people, but the intensity of pollution has significantly escalated over the last few years. It has also started affecting the children these days. The local air that we breathe in contributes majorly to our respiratory health, while the weather around us changes from hour to hour. Thus, in countries like the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborates with their local air quality agencies to work towards determining the air quality frequently.
What is the AQI?
AQI is the primary measurement or report of daily air quality. It focuses on the effects of air pollution on your health are a few hours of breathing in impure air. It is calculated with the help of four major air pollutants mentioned in the Clean Air Act: Sulfur dioxide, Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, and particle pollution.
It also takes into account the ground-level ozone to understand the damages being caused by UV rays. There are national air quality standards for all the four significant pollutants, and if the air shows any increase than usual, its poor quality is indicated by the EPA.
What are the AQI values, and how do they function?
The AQI is determined by a scale of 0 to 500. The greater the value of AQI, the higher is the pollution level. The AQI value of 50 is considered to be good, with very less potential to affect the health of living beings. However, an AQI value of 300 and above is hazardous to breathe in and can lead to several severe health damages. Even a value above 100 poses a grave alarm for older people and patients.
The primary purpose of AQI is to make the common people understand the consequences of breathing in polluted air with the utmost ease. For this reason, the levels of health concern employing AQI are represented in different colors.
Understanding the Air Quality Index color code
0 – 50 is represented by Green, and it defines a good air quality. It is the best available air with minimum or no pollutants in it. Overall, it has no severe implications on health.
51 – 100 is shown by Yellow and defines a moderate air quality. This is an acceptable air quality with a certain amount of pollutants, which can harm very few individuals. People who are extremely sensitive to particle pollution or Ozone pollution may exhibit symptoms of respiratory diseases in this condition.
101 – 150 index, grouped in Orange color, poses a threat to sensitive people. These AQI values indicate that people who are already suffering from respiratory diseases can be affected by outdoor exposure.
151 – 200 is considered to be unhealthy for the majority of the population. It is denoted by Red, and people may start exhibiting severe health issues by coming in regular contact with this degraded quality of air.
201 – 300 scale reading is shown by Purple and is extremely unhealthy for breathing in and leads to an inferior quality of air. This leads to massive respiratory hazards in most people.
301 – 500 is symbolized with Maroon color and can trigger extreme health warnings in most individuals. Constant exposure to this air can lead to an emergency nervous breakdown and even death.
How to avoid being exposed to unhealthy air?
When the AQI is indicating poor quality of air in your city, find out the levels in your area. The local media coverage can help you in analyzing the major trends. There are two essential terms to keep in mind:
● Prolonged exertion
This refers to any outdoor physical activity, which makes you breathe heavily for a longer duration of time. When the Air Quality Index is poor, you should avoid taking part in such physical activities.
● Heavy exertion
This signifies any critical outdoor activity that results in you ending up panting. It can be gymming or exercising. Under poor air conditions, it is recommended to stay indoors and take a walk or jog rather than indulging in a heavy workout.
Practically, the Air Quality Index in India has been so degraded that it is nearly impossible to shun the impacts of it. Monitoring the air report while going out and using masks can be of some help.