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Air Quality Program

Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA)

Ecology uses the Washington Air Quality Advisory, or WAQA, to tell people when air quality is healthy or unhealthy. The pollutants included in WAQA are:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Particle pollution – fine (PM2.5) and larger (PM10)
  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

WAQA is similar to EPA’s national information tool, the Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate, or unhealthy. The difference is that WAQA shows the health effects of PM2.5 at lower levels than the AQI does. In other words, WAQA shows that air quality is unhealthy sooner – when there is less PM2.5 in the air. Smoke and dust are some examples of PM2.5.

Why did Ecology develop WAQA?
 

Ecology developed WAQA to tell people that PM2.5 can affect their health at lower levels than the AQI shows. Studies show that levels of PM2.5 in the air that we previously thought were safe can cause illness and death. In fact, studies have not been able to identify any level of PM2.5 that is completely healthy – that is, that has no health effects at all.

In 2012, EPA changed its health standard for PM2.5 and the AQI. However, the WAQA is still more protective.

Learn more about WAQA

Washington Air Quality Advisory for Smoke and Other Fine Particle Air Pollution
 

Air Pollution Category

Meaning

Precautions to Take

Good Air pollution is minimal and there is little health risk. None.
Moderate People with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or have had a stroke may begin to have breathing problems. People with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or have had a stroke should limit outdoor activities or do activities that take less effort, such as walking instead of running.
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups More people than average may have breathing problems or have worsened symptoms of existing asthma or lung disease. Sensitive groups include people with heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes, infants, children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, or who have had a stroke. These people should limit time spent outdoors.

Unhealthy Many more people than average may have breathing problems or have worsened symptoms of existing lung or heart disease. Everyone should limit time spent outdoors. Everyone should avoid exercising outdoors (including sports teams) and choose non-strenuous indoor activities. People with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or have had a stroke should stay indoors. Infants, children, pregnant women and adults over age 65 should also stay indoors
Very Unhealthy Some healthy people can have breathing problems. People with asthma, lung and heart disease have an increased risk of symptoms or worsening of their disease. Studies show the number of people hospitalized for lung diseases can be 50 percent more than normal.

Everyone should stay indoors, do only light activities, and keep windows closed if it is not too hot. Run air conditioners on re-circulate and close the outside air intake. Use indoor air cleaners with HEPA filters, if available. If you must be outdoors, wear an N-95 respirator mask. People with chronic diseases should check with their health care provider before wearing a mask.

Check with your local health department for health information. People with asthma, lung and heart disease, or have had a stroke should check with their health care provider for advice about leaving the area. Anyone with shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, or difficulty moving or speaking should call their health care provider or call 911.

Hazardous More healthy people are likely to have breathing problems. The people most susceptible are those with asthma or lung disease, diabetes, have had a stroke, infants, children, pregnant women, and adults older than 65. Studies suggest more people with asthma, lung or heart disease need medical attention.

Everyone should stay indoors, do only light activities, and keep windows closed if it is not too hot. Run air conditioners on re-circulate and close the outside air intake. Use indoor air cleaners with HEPA filters, if available. If you must be outdoors, wear an N-95 respirator mask. People with chronic diseases should check with their health care provider before wearing a mask.

Check with your local health department for health information. People with asthma, lung and heart disease, or have had a stroke should check with their health care provider for advice about leaving the area. Anyone with shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, or difficulty moving or speaking should call their health care provider or call 911.

 

Printable version of this table

 


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Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) table

El Índice de la Calidad de Aire de Washington (WAQA, por sus siglas en inglés)

Health effects (comparison of AQI and WAQA)

Smoke from Fires and health (exit Ecology)