How unhealthy is the air? Depends on how far you can see

Visibility (miles) Air Quality Index AQI Color
10+ 0 – 50 Good
6 – 9 51 – 100 Moderate
3 – 5 101 – 150 Unhealthy for sensitive groups
1 – 3 151 – 200 Unhealthy
< 1 201 – 300 Hazardous

RALEIGH – With wildfires burning across Western North Carolina, state air quality officials are distributing a visibility guide for assessing health risks from smoke due to wildfires.

Smoke from wildfires periodically causes locally unhealthy air quality in North Carolina, depending on winds, moisture levels and other weather factors.

The N.C. Division of Air Quality or DAQ has a network of monitors that have measured unhealthy levels of particle pollution at some locations, but those monitors are not always situated where smoke is heaviest.

“Your own observations will be the best guide for determining how the smoke is affecting air quality in your area,” DAQ Deputy Director Mike Abraczinskas said. “If you can see heavy haze and smell smoke, then air quality is not good and you should limit your outdoor activities.

This is particularly important for sensitive groups – that is, children, older adults, people with heart and respiratory problems, and those who work and exercise outside for extended times.”

The Division of Air Quality’s visibility guide to smoke shows what levels of air pollution are likely based on visibility ranges. For example, if visibility is less than 1 mile due to smoke, then air quality probably is in the Code Purple or very unhealthy range.

If visibility is from 3 to 5 miles, then air quality probably is in the Code Red or unhealthy range. Visibility information can be obtained from local airports or the National Weather Service, http://www.weather.gov/gsp/.

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