United States Air Quality Index (AQI) and Air Pollution Information | IQAir (2023)

What is the US air quality forecast?

The United States of America (USA), also known as the United States (USA or US) or America, is a country located primarily in North America. It mainly consists of 50 states and 5 territories and had a population of 328 million people in 2019.

The first recorded use of the name "America" ​​was in 1507, when it appeared on a map created by a German cartographer who wished to honor an Italian explorer named Amerigo Vespucci.

Looking back at the 2020 figures on the IQAir website, the USA achieved an overall ranking of 84 out of a total of 106 world cities. The average annual value was 40 US AQI, compared to Bangladesh, the most polluted country, with a US AQI value of 162.

The cleanest city was Waimea, Hawaii, with a score of just 9, while the most polluted city was Yosemite Lakes, California, with a score of 107.

Is US Air Quality the Same Year Round?

Last year 2020, wildfires raged in California towards the end of the year. Because of climate change, they were the worst ever. The skies over many cities were shrouded in a surreal orange smoke.

The fire itself is not always the greatest danger, but the tiny soot particles that are produced in the fires can pose a greater health hazard. These particles can be up to 10 times worse for human health than similar particles from other sources.

Overall, California has been successful in reducing pollution from cars, trucks, and power plants, but these wildfires are only getting worse. If pollution from these PM2.5 pollutants increases moderately, admission to medical centers for the treatment of asthma increases by about 1 percent. But when people inhale the particles produced by these wildfires, intake increases 10-fold.

(Video) Air Quality Index (AQI) - What It Means For You

Looking back at the numbers recorded then, it can now be determined that the wildfires were responsible for 1,200 deaths and an additional 4,800 visits to emergency rooms for treatment of respiratory problems. Most of those affected were 65 years or older. Many had pre-existing breathing problems, diabetes, or heart disease.

A similar situation is expected for 2021 as the winter has been exceptionally dry. However, federal officials have signed an agreement that provides for tighter controls on the condition of the forested areas. Over $1 billion has been allocated for this increased forest management, along with fuel pauses, fire inspections, and increased firefighting crews.

It has also been suggested that more "clean room" cooling centers be made available to recover from the intense heat, and offering discounts on air purifiers has also been suggested.

California may have experienced the worst wildfires of 2020, but the rest of the country is also prone to wildfires, which can equally affect air quality.

What are the main types of pollutants found in American air?

A variety of different chemical compounds and dangerous fine dust particles are in the air in the various states and cities of America. With its large and growing population, coupled with other factors such as increasing vehicle ownership, many different pollutants are released into the air as a result of various combustion processes.

In addition, there are other activities that can release large amounts of coarse or fine particles into the air (PM10 or PM2.5), usually through the destruction of large amounts of soil or rock through various processes such as mining and quarrying of materials, as well construction sites or similar areas.

Some of these chemical pollutants released from the various combustion sources include those such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), where large amounts are released through vehicle emissions, with nitrogen dioxide being the main culprit. It can typically be found over high traffic areas, so much so that large accumulations of it are often strong indicators that much of the pollution in a given area is caused by vehicles.

(Video) Why is it Important to Understand Air Quality Index (AQI)?

Both of these chemical compounds can contribute to acid rain and cause irritation and inflammation of the lining of the airways and lungs, leading to a variety of problems that are discussed in more detail below.

Other pollutants include those like soot and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), both of which result from the incomplete combustion of both fossil fuels and organic matter, and as such can arise in vehicle engines, factory boilers, and even fireplaces and stoves in people's homes (essentially anywhere where there is a source of combustion).

Carbon black is a major component of carbon black and has potent carcinogenic properties if inhaled and is not visually appealing as it is typically found coating heavily trafficked roadsides. In addition, it also has climate-changing properties as it absorbs solar radiation and emits it directly as heat, which has a warming effect on the surrounding area.

Some examples of the aforementioned VOCs include those such as benzene, toluene, xylene, methylene chloride and formaldehyde, all of which pose a major hazard to human health and are very easy to breathe due to their volatile nature, which causes them to hold a gaseous state as well at much lower temperatures. Additionally, they are also found in many household items and are a major contributor to indoor pollution, with all types of products such as scented candles, air fresheners, aerosols and anything that contains paint or glue emitting some form of these chemicals.

Other prominent pollutants are such as methane (CH4), which are released in large quantities from livestock farming and fertilizers. Similar to many of the other pollutants mentioned, it has strong impacts on both human health and the environment and climate.

Similarly, ozone (O3) is also another pollutant of very high concern, mainly due to its prevalence in many cities across America. It is formed when the various nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other gases or chemicals released from automobiles and other similar sources are exposed to sunlight. This causes a chemical reaction that creates ozone, or smog as it is better known, when it accumulates in large accumulations. While this is a vital part of the upper atmosphere, it can prove to have very negative health effects at ground level, which is why it is included among the several pollutants that go into the calculation of the AQI, or Air Quality Index.

Has COVID-19 Affected US Air Pollution?

Although car traffic was reduced by about 40 percent due to COVID-19 restrictions, air pollution levels remained very similar to previous records. This confirmed that factories, refineries, power plants and heavy trucks are still the main sources of air pollution.

(Video) US States Comparison: Air Quality Index by State 2022

Throughout 2020, millions of cars stopped being used on a daily basis and the air became noticeably cleaner, but the levels of pollutants in that “clean” air remained the same.

Measurements were then taken at more than 900 sites across the US and found that ozone levels were about 15 percent lower than at comparable times in previous years. This fact alone shows that it takes more than fewer exhaust gases to make a big enough difference to the ozone values.

In cities like Los Angeles, COVID-19 doesn't seem to have played a role in improving air quality. The large fleet of vans are on the streets as usual, proving what a major source of pollution they are.

Looking at the east coast, the story is very similar. Areas around cities like Pittsburgh still suffer from poor air quality due to the constant use of coal in power plants. The demand for electricity has not changed significantly due to COVID.

What is the cost to society of polluted air in the United States?

It is estimated that air pollution negatively affects the US economy at a rate of about 5 percent of total GDP. That number was estimated at about $790 billion in 2014 and will now be significantly higher. The highest costs are attributed to premature deaths due to high exposure to PM2.5 particles.

Air pollution has steadily decreased in recent years due to the increasing use of clean energy sources such as natural gas and renewable energies such as solar and wind power. The use of coal as an energy source in power generation has also fallen sharply. Modern technology also plays an important role, as modern filters prevent many of the pollutants contained in exhaust gases from escaping into the atmosphere. Most engines are now fitted with new catalytic converters.

Air pollution damage is largely concentrated in a small number of economic sectors: the four main contributors to the highest external damage are agriculture, utilities, manufacturing and transport, which contribute close to 20 percent of GDP but are responsible for more than 75 percent of all air pollution-related damage.

(Video) How we measure air quality

Some of these emissions are declining annually as new technologies are increasingly used to prevent air pollution. Unfortunately, the agricultural sector is bucking the trend. The pollution caused by livestock and crops is disproportionate to their contribution to total GDP.

Who is most vulnerable to air pollution in the US?

As the issue of protection from air pollution becomes more pressing, it is important to note that there are certain populations that are at greater risk of adverse health effects from air pollution, especially when they occur over a period of time. While even healthy adults can suffer from the negative side effects of pollution, groups such as young children and the elderly are even more vulnerable.

Toddlers can have many allergies and other similar health issues during their formative years that can have lifelong consequences, as many toddlers living in polluted cities develop diseases like asthma or allergies and have an increased sensitivity to certain chemicals. It can also lead to cognitive impairment more frequently, as PM2.5 particles can enter the bloodstream and disrupt the nervous system and many other functions in the body.

Other risk groups include pregnant mothers, those who are ill and have pre-existing conditions or a weakened immune system, a sedentary lifestyle (with additional bad habits like smoking), or a combination of all of these factors. These groups should exercise extra caution during bouts of high air pollution, with the importance of staying up to date on air pollution and taking the necessary preventive measures, such as wearing particulate matter filter masks and avoiding outdoor activities when possible.

What health problems are associated with breathing polluted air in America?

Some health effects that occur when people in the United States inhale excessive amounts of pollutants can range from transient and superficial to life-threatening and incurable. As for some of the more short-term health effects, they would include cases of a dry cough, sore throat, and chest infections. These would mostly go away when exposure to harmful pollutants ceased, although they can develop into more serious respiratory diseases with prolonged exposure. These include those that typically fall under the category of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term that includes a range of conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, and aggravated forms of asthma.

Other health effects include an increased risk of cancer, particularly when individuals are exposed to carcinogenic materials or particles such as carbon black, finely ground silica, or even VOCs such as benzene. Ischemic heart disease can occur along with many other dangerous health problems, such as strokes, abnormal heart rhythms, and heart attacks. These are just some of the negative impacts that can occur in the general population and as such it should serve as a reminder that reducing pollution as well as protecting against overexposure should be of paramount importance in the years to come.


What is the air quality index AQI and why do you think it is important to monitor air quality? ›

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used 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.

What is the United States AQI scale? ›

Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.

What city in the US has the worst AQI? ›

Los Angeles-Long Beach

What are the 5 major air pollutants used when calculating the AQI? ›

What pollutants it covers: There's a U.S. AQI for five major pollutants that are regulated by the Clean Air Act: ozone, particle pollution (also called particulate matter), carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

What makes AQI unhealthy? ›

When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy, at first for members of populations at greatest risk of a health effect, then for the entire population as AQI values get higher (greater than 150). The AQI is divided into six categories that correspond to different levels of health concern.

What is an AQI explain its purposes and importance? ›

AQI is an index used to report daily air quality. It tells you how unhealthy the ambient air is and how polluted it can become in the near future. It also educates you on what associated health effects might be of concern.

Where in the US is the best AQI? ›

Hawaii has, on average, the cleanest air in the USA overall. It has an AQI value of 21.2, which is in the healthy range set by the EPA.

How does the US rank in pollution? ›

Researchers from Yale University and Columbia University ranked the U.S. 24th out of 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index 2020, an analysis of 32 environmental performance indicators. Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland took the first three spots.

How much pollution is in the air in the US? ›

Air Quality Trends Show Clean Air Progress

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Annual, 61% Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) 1-Hour, 54% Ozone (O3) 8-Hour, 25% Particulate Matter 10 microns (PM10) 24-Hour, 26%

Which state in the US has the cleanest air? ›

Hawaii ranks first in the nation for air and water quality, as well as in the overall natural environment category. Massachusetts places second in this subcategory, followed by North Dakota, Virginia and Florida.

Where is the cleanest air in USA? ›

Cleanest Cities | State of the Air
Cheyenne, WYcheyenne-wy.html1
Wilmington, NCwilmington-nc.html2
Urban Honolulu, HIurban-honolulu-hi.html3
Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HIkahului-wailuku-lahaina-hi.html4

What city in the US has the cleanest air? ›

Springfield, Massachusetts, located 100 miles west of Boston, has some of the best air in the country.

What causes AQI to increase? ›

There are many factors that can lead to poor air quality, but the two most common are related to elevated concentrations of ground-level ozone or particulate matter.

What does AQI depend on? ›

The AQI level is based on the level of six atmospheric pollutants, namely sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), suspended particulates smaller than 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10), suspended particulates smaller than 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) measured at ...

What are the 3 main air pollutants? ›

Ozone (O3) Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) Carbon monoxide (CO)

How do I lower my AQI? ›

15. Do not use harmful chemicals
  1. Carpool with colleagues or friends.
  2. When buying a new car, choose the lowest-polluting car.
  3. Use public transport.
  4. Replace air conditioning with a fan.
  5. Use recycled materials.
  6. Use water-based paints and cleaning products.
  7. Opt for natural gas instead of charcoal.
  8. Utilize solar and wind energy.
Apr 24, 2019

How do you stay safe from high AQI? ›

Air Pollution: Tips to protect you and your family from poor air quality:
  1. Check the AQI daily. AQI stands for Air Quality Index which measures the level of air pollution in the air. ...
  2. Wear a mask when outdoors. ...
  3. Plant air-purifying plants in your home. ...
  4. Avoid outdoor activities. ...
  5. Invest in air purifiers. ...
  6. Inculcate healthy eating.
Nov 7, 2022

How do I reduce AQI? ›

10 Best Ways to Reduce Air Pollution
  1. Using public transports. ...
  2. Turn off the lights when not in use. ...
  3. Recycle and Reuse. ...
  4. No to plastic bags. ...
  5. Reduction of forest fires and smoking. ...
  6. Use of fans instead of Air Conditioner. ...
  7. Use filters for chimneys. ...
  8. Avoid usage of crackers.
Sep 8, 2017

Why is it important to control air pollution? ›

Reducing pollutants in the air is important for human health and the environment. Poor air quality has harmful effects on human health, particularly the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Pollutants can also damage plants and buildings, and smoke or haze can reduce visibility.

Why is it important to protect air quality? ›

Breathing clean air can lessen the possibility of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer as well as chronic and acute respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Lower levels of air pollution are better for heart and respiratory health both long- and short-term.

Why is air quality important for public health? ›

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a variety of adverse health outcomes. It increases the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Such effects affects largely the most vulnerable population, children, the elderly and women.

What is the most polluted state in the US? ›

Short-term Particle Pollution
22 more rows

Does the US have good air quality? ›

The Environmental Performance Index, a metric from environmental scientists at Yale and Columbia that ranks 180 countries around the world, puts the US in 10th place when it comes to overall air quality (Australia is first).

Who has the cleanest air in the world? ›

Finland has the cleanest air in the world

Air quality in Finland is the best in the world according to data released by the World Health Organisation, WHO. The level of airborne particles in Finland is on average 6 micrograms per cubic metre – the lowest level for any individual country.

What is the main cause of pollution in the US? ›

Mobile, stationary, area, and natural sources all emit pollution into the air. Mobile sources account for more than half of all the air pollution in the United States and the primary mobile source of air pollution is the automobile, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

What causes the most pollution in the US? ›

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. EPA tracks total U.S. emissions by publishing the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks.

Does the US have a pollution problem? ›

Every year, millions of Americans are exposed to levels of pollution that American public health groups and international agencies consider unhealthy. Fossil fuels are the largest source of air pollution that comes from human activities.

How much of the air is polluted 2022? ›

Particulate Matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) Annual, 37% (from 2000) Particulate Matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) 24-Hour, 33% (from 2000) Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) 1-Hour, 91% Numerous air toxics have declined with percentages varying by pollutant.

What state has the best water? ›

The top 10 states with the cleanest water in 2021 are:
  • Minnesota.
  • New Hampshire.
  • Connecticut.
  • Vermont.
  • Kansas.
  • Missouri.
  • Oregon.
  • Massachusetts.
Mar 11, 2022

Who has the best water in the US? ›

Missouri: Missouri has some of the best drinking water not just in the U.S., but in the world. In fact, the city of Independence has been named among the top five best-tasting tap waters in the world seven times in eight years at the Berkeley Spring International Water Testing Competition.

Which city has the best water in the US? ›

Here are Cities with the CLEANEST Drinking Water
  • Silverdale, Washington. Silverdale's water comes from an aquifer in Green Mountain.
  • Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City's Water comes from man-made lakes. ...
  • Louisville, Kentucky. ...
  • Macon, Georgia. ...
  • Memphis, Tennessee.
Nov 29, 2022

What are the 5 best states to live in for air quality? ›

These 7 states have the least air pollution in the U.S.
  • Vermont.
  • New Hampshire.
  • South Dakota.
  • New Mexico.
  • Wyoming.
  • California.
  • Rhode Island.
Sep 24, 2022

Where is the least toxic place to live in the US? ›

Let's do the good news first. If you live in Hawaii, then you probably already know that you live in a place with a pretty fantastic natural environment. Likewise, much of New England scores well, with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire all featuring in the top 10 least toxic places to live.

How can I reduce my AQI at home? ›

6 ways to improve indoor air quality
  1. 01/7The air quality indoors is way more polluted than outdoor air. ...
  2. 02/7​Use aerosol free products. ...
  3. 03/7​Clean your ducts and filters. ...
  4. 04/7​Turn on your kitchen vent when cooking. ...
  5. 05/7​Keep your rugs and carpet clean. ...
  6. 06/7​Invest in an air purifier. ...
  7. 07/7​Get indoor plants.
Nov 30, 2020

Do air purifiers reduce AQI? ›

Delhi Air Quality Index (AQI)

Air purifier reduces air contamination inside the house along with indoor pollution. Hence, air filters with good High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) efficiency are more effective in combating indoor pollution.

What time of day is air pollution lowest? ›

In particular, it peaks between 7:00 to 10:00 AM (LST) and 9:00 to 11:00 PM (LST). On the other hand, it's lowest in the afternoon, particularly between 3:00 to 5:00 PM (LST).

What is the safe limit of AQI? ›

The greater the density of pollutants in the air, the higher the Air Quality Index (AQI), a scale that runs from zero to 500. An AQI of 50 or below is considered safe, while readings above 100 are deemed unhealthy.

What does high AQI do to your body? ›

Exposure to air pollution can affect everyone's health. When we breathe in air pollutants, they can enter our bloodstream and contribute to coughing or itchy eyes and cause or worsen many breathing and lung diseases, leading to hospitalizations, cancer, or even premature death.

What pollutes the air the most? ›

Burning Fossil Fuels

The biggest contributors of air pollution are from industry sources and power plants to generate power, as well as fossil fuel motor vehicles. The continuous burning of fossil fuels releases air pollutants, emissions and chemicals into the air and atmosphere.

What are the top 3 main causes of air pollution in the world? ›

Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

What are the 10 causes of air pollution? ›

We have listed 10 common air pollution causes along with their effects. They have serious implications for you and your loved ones health on a daily basis.
  • The Burning of Fossil Fuels. ...
  • Industrial Emission. ...
  • Indoor Air Pollution. ...
  • Wildfires. ...
  • Microbial Decaying Process. ...
  • Transportation. ...
  • Open Burning of Garbage Waste.
Feb 6, 2019

Why is it important to measure air quality? ›

Monitoring air quality is important because polluted air can be bad for our health—and the health of the environment. Air quality is measured with the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI works sort of like a thermometer that runs from 0 to 500 degrees.

What are the advantages of monitoring AQI? ›

The key benefit of using an AQI is the ability to communicated data with the public, both easily and conveniently. AQI can demystify data – you don't need to be an expert to understand AQI values – they're easily scaled and colour coded – there is no need to understand units and concentrations.

Why AQI prediction is important? ›

Air quality index (AQI) is an essential measure of air pollution evaluation, which describes the air pollution degree and its impact on health, so the accurate prediction of AQI is significant.

Why is air quality standard important? ›

Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.

How can we improve the air quality? ›

On Days when High Particle Levels are Expected, Take these Extra Steps to Reduce Pollution:
  1. Reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
  2. Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
  3. Avoid burning leaves, trash, and other materials.
  4. Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
Jan 18, 2023

How can we reduce air pollution? ›

What you can do about air pollution
  1. Drive your car less. ...
  2. Keep your car in good repair. ...
  3. Turn off your engine. ...
  4. Don't burn your garbage. ...
  5. Limit backyards fire in the city. ...
  6. Plant and care for trees. ...
  7. Switch to electric or hand-powered lawn equipment. ...
  8. Use less energy.

How to control air pollution? ›

On the road
  1. Walk or ride a bike when possible.
  2. Take public transportation.
  3. Organize and condense errands into one trip.
  4. When driving, accelerate gradually and obey the speed limit.
  5. Drive less, particularly on days with unhealthy air.
  6. Maintain your vehicle and keep your tires properly inflated.
Sep 19, 2011


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