Smoky skies? Here are the best ways to check air quality near you

June 9, 2023

During wildfire season, Californians have grown accustomed to checking two numbers: AQI and PMI. The first is the air quality index, or the general quality of the air, and it’s typically measured on a scale from 0 to 500.

The Environmental Protection Agency says an AQI value above 101 is unhealthy for some people and above 151 is unhealthy for everyone. In New York City on Wednesday, June 7, AQI levels reached upward of 300, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The second reading, PMI, refers to the size of particles in the air. Doctors say prolongedexposure to particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers—referred to as PM2.5—is a health risk.

Now, Americans on the Eastern Seaboard have reason to monitor these same indicators. Many already are constantly looking at the usual sites and weather apps, which provide some air-quality info.

According to the Journal, the following are the best tools to use:

  • AirNow: This EPA website reports current air quality around the country. There’s also a free mobile app for iOS and Android devices. To add a shortcut to your area in the app, tap on the Places tab, then New Place. To get AirNow data via voice command, ask your Alexa smart speaker, Google device, or Android phone, “What is the air quality?”
  • Apple Weather: The iPhone’s built-in app includes the current AQI and a map. Tap the air quality module (not the map) and scroll down to Primary Pollutant for details about the particle size. The data is provided by BreezoMeter, an environmental intelligence service acquired by Google last year. (Yep, Apple uses Google-owned data.)
  • Google Maps: On the Google Maps app for iOS and Android, you can get neighborhood-level readings. The data provider, PurpleAir, runs a network of individually owned Wi-Fi-enabled sensors. Open the app, then tap on the layers icon. Select Air Quality to view readings. The Google Maps app for Android and iOS provides neighborhood-by-neighborhood AQI readings using data from PurpleAir and AirNow.
  • AirVisual: The AirVisual iOS and Android mobile app is produced by monitoring company IQAir, a partner of the United Nations Environment Program. It shows AQI and PMI, as well as a seven-day forecast, using official government sources and individuals with IQAir devices. In settings, under Notifications, you can set alerts to tell you when air quality in your area is deteriorating. AirVisual’s app shows AQI and PMI information and can give a seven-day forecast using official government sources and individuals with IQAir devices.
  • National Weather Service: The National Weather Service regularly tweets wildfire updates, air quality, and health recommendations. You can find the account for your region and other forecast offices around the country at
  • Indoor AQI Sensors: To determine the air quality inside your home, you’ll need a separate device. Amazon’s $70 Smart Air Quality Monitor feeds readings to your Alexa app. The $100 Eve Room works with Apple’s HomeKit. Many smart air filters include their own sensors. The $349 Mila measures airborne particulates, carbon monoxide and more, and lets you monitor the data remotely from its iOS or Android app.

Research contact: @WSJ