What is the Air Quality Index for Health?

The Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) is a number from one to 10 that tells you what the air quality currently is in your region and whether or not this might affect  the health of you or your child. A reading of 10 means the air quality is very poor and a reading of one to three inclusive means that the air quality is good. The AQIH is calculated every hour. You can see the current readings on the AQIH map.

 

Using the AQIH can help you better protect the health of you or your child, particularly if either of you are very sensitive to air pollution.

 

This section gives you information on :

·         how you use the AQIH,

·       the short-term health effects of air pollution,

·         health advice messages to follow when using the AQIH, and

·         how we work out (calculate) the AQIH.

 

 

NALA Plain English Logo from a snip

The Air Quality Index for Health is written in Plain English.

 

How do I use the Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH)?

Step 1 Read ‘What are the short-term effects of air pollution?’  to see if you or your child is likely to be at risk from air pollution. Your doctor may also be able to advise you.

Step 2 Figure out which AQIH region you are in using the map or the list of AQIH Regions. There are six regions:

Dublin City Large Towns Rural West
Cork City Small Towns Rural East

 

Step 3 Check the AQIH for your region on the AQIH map if you think you may be at risk, and are planning strenuous activity outdoors such as sports. If you are close to the border of another AQIH region, check the AQIH for that region also.

Step 4 Read the health advice messages for the current AQIH for your region.

Disclaimer

If you use the AQIH, this means you accept this disclaimer. The AQIH is based on information from monitoring instruments at representative locations in each of the six AQIH Regions. It may not reflect local incidents of air polluiton. Area-specific conditions near a monitoring station may give a false reading. The Environmental Protection Agency is not liable for the consequence of any decisions you make based on the AQIH.

  

 

Step 1 What are the short-term effects of air pollution?

Air pollution has a range of effects on health. However, air pollution in Ireland does not, in general, rise to levels at which people need to make major changes to their habits to avoid exposure; nobody need fear going outdoors.

  

Below, we list the main the main short-term effects of air pollution on health for different groups of people at the four different bands of the AQIH. The four bands are:

  • Good Air Quality, 
  • Fair Air Quality,
  •  Poor Air Quality, 
  • Very Poor Air Quality 

Adults and children with heart or lung conditions including asthma 

If you or your children suffer from a heart or lung condition, you are more likely to become ill and need treatment but only a small number of you are likely to be affected. It is not possible to predict in advance who will be affected.

 

If you are very sensitive to air pollution, you may experience health effects even on days with good air quality (reading of 1-3 on the AQIH).

 

If you are asthmatic you may notice that you need to increase your use of inhaled reliever medication on days when air pollution is fair, poor or very poor.

 

Older People

Older people are more likely to suffer from heart and lung conditions than younger people. So if you are older it makes sense to be aware of current air quality in your region and to follow the appropriate health advice messages.


General population

At very poor levels of air quality (reading 10 on the AQIH), some of us, even if we are healthy, may get

  • a sore or dry throat,
  • sore eyes or,
  • in some cases, a tickly cough.

 

Children

Children need not be kept from school or prevented from taking part in games. If your child has asthma, they may need to use their reliever medication on days when levels of air pollution are higher than average.

 

 

Steps 2 and 3 What is the Air Quality in your region?

If you think you may be at risk, and are planning strenuous activity outdoors such as sports, check the AQIH for your region on the map. If you are close to the border of another AQIH region, check the AQIH for that region also.

The six AQIH Regions are described in the table below. A list of towns in the Large Towns and Small Towns Regions is available in the section on Air Quality Index for Health Regions.

AQIH RegionDefinition
Dublin City Dublin city region from Shankill in south Dublin to Lucan in West Dublin to Swords in North Dublin.
Cork City Cork city region incorporating Cork City Council district with additional built-up areas.
Large Towns Towns and cities with a population greater than 15,000 (excluding Dublin and Cork).
Small Towns Towns and cities with a population between 5,000 and 15,000.
Rural West Towns with population less than 5,000, villages and rural areas in counties Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.
Rural East Towns with population less than 5,000, villages and rural areas in counties Carlow, Cavan, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.

Step 4 What are the AQIH health advice messages?

The AQIH health advice messages are messages to help you and your family better manage your health. The table below gives health messages for individuals who are sensitive to air pollution (at risk) and for the general population.

AQIH with health advice. Colours changed to make it easier to read ‎‌

 * If you or child has heart or lung problems you are at greater risk of symptoms from air pollution. You need to follow your doctor's usual advice about excercising and managing your condition. If you are very sensitive, you may have health effects even on days when the air quality is good. Anyone experiencing symptoms should follow the guidance provided in the section on 'What can I do when there are increased levels of air pollution?'.

 

What can I do when there are increased levels of air pollution?

 

If you have noticed that you are usually affected by increased levels of air pollution, you can go out when levels of air pollution increase but you might reduce the amount of exercise you do outdoors.

 

Older people and those with heart and lung conditions

If you are older or have a heart or lung condition, you might avoid physical exertion on days with poor or very poor air quality (7-10 ratings).

 

Adults and children with asthma

If you (or your child) has asthma, you should make sure that you are taking your medication correctly. If you are unsure, ask your health care practitioner (your local doctor or pharmacist). You may notice that you have to use your inhaled reliever medication more.

 

Adults with heart and circulatory conditions

If you have heart and circulatory conditions, you should not change your treatment schedules on the basis of advice provided by the AQIH. You should seek advice from your health care practitioner (your local doctor or pharmacist) if you need to.

 

Some athletes

If you are an athlete, even if you are not asthmatic, you may find you are not performing as well as you expect when levels of a certain air pollutant (ground-level ozone) cause poor or very poor air quality (readings 7-10 on the AQIH).

 

You may notice that when you breathe deeply you feel some discomfort in your chest. This does not mean you are in any danger but it may be better if you do less exercise on these days.

 

In Ireland, levels of ground-level ozone rarely reach poor or very poor (readings 7-10 on the AQIH).

 

How we work out (calculate) the AQIH

The Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) has 10 points ranging from 1 to 10. These points are divided into four coloured bands – good (readings of 1-3), fair (readings of 4-6), poor (7-9) and very poor (10). The higher the number the worse the quality of the air.  For example, a AQIH reading of 10 means that the air quality is very poor and a reading of 1, 2 or 3 means that the air quality is good (see table below).

The AQIH is based on measurements of five air pollutants all of which can harm health. The five pollutants are: 

    • Ozone gas
    • Nitrogen dioxide gas
    • Sulphur dioxide gas
    • PM2.5 particles and
    • PM10 particles 

We use automatic air quality monitors to measure how much pollutant there is (we work this out per each cubic metre – m3) every hour. We work out the index (number) for each pollutant separately. The overall  AQIH is the highest of the five pollutant indices. For example, if there is more ozone than sulphur dioxide, we give the higher number for the ozone as the overall AQIH. The table below shows the ranges of concentration (amounts) for each pollutant. Examples of how to calculate the AQIH are given below the table.  

  Air Quality Index for Health Bands

 Example 1

Pollutant Measurement Index
Ozone 80 3
Nitrogen Dioxide 35 1
Sulphur Dioxide 10 1
PM 2.5 Particles 45 5
PM 10 Particles 71 6

 

The AQIH is 6 - Fair 

Example 2

Pollutant Measurement Index
Ozone 80 3
Nitrogen Dioxide 35 1
Sulphur Dioxide 10 1
PM 2.5 Particles 25 3
PM 10 Particles 50 3

The AQIH is 3 - Good



Air Quality Index for Health Regions

There six AQIH Regions are described in the table below.

AQIH Region Definition Comparison with Air Quality Management Zone
Dublin City Dublin agglomeration from Shankill in south Dublin to Lucan in west Dublin to Swords in north Dublin. Corresponds to Zone A
Cork City Cork agglomeration incorporating Cork City Council jurisdiction with additional built-up areas. Corresponds to Zone B
Large Towns Towns and cities with a population greater than 15,000 (excluding Dublin and Cork). Corresponds to Zone C
Small Towns Towns and cities with a population between 5,000 and 15,000. Corresponds to part of Zone D
DRural West Towns with population less than 5,000, villages and rural areas in Counties Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. Corresponds to part of Zone D
Rural East  Towns with population less than 5,000, villages and rural areas in Counties Carlow, Cavan, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow. Corresponds to part of Zone D

 

Cities and Towns in Large Towns AQIH Regions 

  County City/Town Name
1 Carlow Carlow
2 Clare Ennis
3 Donegal Letterkenny
4 Dublin Balbriggan
5 Galway Galway
6 Kerry Tralee
7 Kildare Celbridge
8 Kildare Leixlip
9 Kildare Naas
10 Kildare Newbridge
11 Kilkenny Kilkenny
12 Laois Portlaoise
13 Limerick Limerick
14 Louth Drogheda
15 Louth Dundalk
16 Meath Navan
17 Sligo Sligo
18 Tipperary Clonmel
19 Waterford Waterford
20 Westmeath Athlone
21 Westmeath Mullingar
22 Wexford Wexford
23 Wicklow Bray
24 Wicklow Greystones


Towns in Small Towns AQIH Region

  County City/Town Name
1 Cavan Cavan
2 Clare Shannon
3 Cork Bandon
4 Cork Carrigaline
5 Cork Cobh
6 Cork Fermoy
7 Cork Mallow
 8  Cork  Midleton
9 Cork Passage West
10 Cork Youghal
11 Donegal Buncrana
12 Dublin Donabate
13 Dublin Lusk
14 Dublin Rush
15 Dublin Skerries
16 Galway Ballinasloe
17 Galway Loughrea
18 Galway Tuam
19 Kerry Killarney
20 Kildare Athy
21 Kildare Clane
22 Kildare Kilcock
23 Kildare Kildare
24 Kildare Maynooth
25 Kildare Sallins
26 Laois Portarlington
27 Limerick Newcastle West
28 Longford Longford
29 Mayo Ballina
30 Mayo Castlebar
31 Mayo Westport
32 Meath Ashbourne
33 Meath Dunboyne
34 Meath Kells
35 Meath Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington
36 Meath Ratoath
37 Meath Trim
38 Monaghan Monaghan
39 Offaly Birr
40 Offaly Edenderry
41 Offaly Tullamore
42 Roscommon Roscommon
43 Tipperary Carrick-on-Suir
44 Tipperary Nenagh
45 Tipperary Roscrea
46 Tipperary Thurles
47 Tipperary Tipperary
48 Waterford Dungarvan
49 Waterford New Ross
50 Waterford Tramore
51 Wexford Enniscorthy
52 Wexford Gorey
53 Wicklow Arklow
54 Wicklow Blessington
55 Wicklow Wicklow