Current Air Quality
Air Quality Index
Local air quality affects how you live and breathe. Like the weather, it can change from day to day or even hour to hour. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others are working to make information about outdoor air quality as easy to understand as the weather forecast. A key tool in this effort is the Air Quality Index, or AQI.
Air Quality Where You Live
EPA uses six "criteria pollutants" as indicators of air quality, and has established for each of them a maximum concentration above which adverse effects on human health may occur. These threshold concentrations are called National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
When an area does not meet the air quality standard for one of the criteria pollutants, it may be subject to the formal rule-making process which designates it as nonattainment. The Clean Air Act further classifies ozone, carbon monoxide, and some particulate matter nonattainment areas based on the magnitude of an area's problem. Nonattainment classifications may be used to specify what air pollution reduction measures an area must adopt, and when the area must reach attainment. The technical details underlying these classifications are discussed in the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 81 (40 CFR 81).
- EPA's Green Book provides a list of "nonattainment" areas where air pollution levels persistently exceed the national ambient air quality standards.
You may be wondering: How does the air quality in my city compare with other cities? What time of year has the best air quality? Has the air quality in my city improved? AirCompare provides local air quality information to help you make informed, health-protective decisions about moving or vacationing.
Air Quality Monitoring
One way to protect and assess air quality is through the development of an ambient air monitoring program. Air quality samples are generally collected for one or more of the following purposes:
- To judge compliance with and/or progress made towards meeting ambient air quality standards
- To activate emergency control procedures that prevent or alleviate air pollution episodes
- To observe pollution trends throughout the region, including non-urban areas
- To provide a data base for research evaluation of effects: urban, land-use, and transportation planning; development and evaluation of abatement strategies; and development and validation of computer models
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Ambient Air Quality Monitoring
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection: Bureau of Air Monitoring
- AirNOW is a government-backed program. Through AIRNow, EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, news media, and tribal, state, and local agencies work together to report conditions for ozone and particle pollution.