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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.
The Air Quality Index for Health is written in Plain English.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
At very poor levels of air quality (reading 10 on the AQIH), some of us, even if we are healthy, may get
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.
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.
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.
* 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?'.
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.
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).
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:
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.
The AQIH is 6 - Fair
The AQIH is 3 - Good
There six AQIH Regions are described in the table below.
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