LEARN / ARTICLE
Why is air quality data important?
Data is power
Air quality data helps us better understand the condition of the air we breathe. If we understand the data, we can better protect ourselves, reduce health impacts, and advocate for policy change.
Useful for sensitive groups
Air quality data is particularly useful for sensitive groups such as people with asthma, lung disease, or heart disease, and for pregnant women, elderly people, and parents of young children. It helps us understand whether it is safe to undertake activities outside, such as playing or exercising outside, and whether we need to take steps such as wearing face masks to reduce the impact on our health.
Helps us make improvements
Air quality data also helps us determine what we need to do in our homes and workplaces to improve indoor air quality. Many buildings and homes are not well-sealed (for example, near windows) and do not use air filtration products, so sometimes the air inside can be just as polluted as the air outside.
Helps determine policies
Governments and experts use air quality data to implement policies that will improve the air we breathe. At the national level, governments can analyse current air quality data to evaluate what impact their policies are having and what else can be done to reduce air pollution. They can also examine national standards and make them tougher, or introduce new laws that requires industries to improve their production practices.
We can’t manage what we don’t measure
At a local level, city governments can monitor pollution trends from vehicles and determine what sort of responses are needed to reduce emissions. Education and health facilities can use data to take action to protect vulnerable people on high pollution days. Local communities can also monitor their neighbourhoods’ air quality and move to advocate for improvements.
Although some countries have their own air quality measurement systems, the Air Quality Index (AQI) is the index most used around the world. We use AQI because it is easy to understand with six clear categories and color codes.