“The Dangers of Wildfire Smoke: Using Technology to Monitor Air Quality and Protect Your Health”

“The Dangers of Wildfire Smoke: Using Technology to Monitor Air Quality and Protect Your Health”

The Dangers of Wildfire Smoke and Invisible Pollutants

Wildfire smoke is not just an inconvenience because of its unpleasant smell and obstructive effects on visibility. It can pose serious health risks because it contains a cocktail of chemicals that can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, and increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases. Some of these pollutants are visible to the naked eye, while others are not.

How Technology Can Help

While it’s helpful to rely on our senses to detect the presence of smoke, we may not be able to gauge accurately the levels and types of pollutants in the air. That’s where technology comes in.

The Air Quality Index

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a measure of how polluted the air is based on five major air pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. AQI ranges from 0 to 500, with higher values indicating higher levels of pollution and greater health risks. In general, AQI values below 50 are considered healthy, while values above 300 are hazardous.

AQI Apps and Websites

You can use your smartphone to find out the AQI in your location by downloading AQI apps such as AirNow, Plumelabs, and BreezoMeter, which provide real-time and forecasted air quality data along with health recommendations and customized alerts. You can also visit websites such as AirNow.gov, IQAir.com, and PurpleAir.com that offer similar information and features.

Using AQI to Make Decisions

Once you know the AQI in your area, you can use it to make informed decisions about outdoor activities. For instance, if the AQI is above 100, it may be wise to limit prolonged outdoor exertion, especially if you have or are at risk of respiratory or heart problems. If the AQI is above 200, it’s advisable to avoid outdoor activities altogether and stay indoors with air conditioning or air purifiers.


Wildfire smoke and invisible pollutants can have serious health consequences, but using technology to monitor air quality can help us make smart decisions about when to spend time outside. Remember to check the AQI regularly and take appropriate measures to protect yourself and your loved ones. Stay healthy and breathe easy!Original Article: https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-check-air-quality-index-apps/

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