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Be cautious of where you find your air quality data

AQI displaying on a phone

As wildfire smoke continues to cloud our air, it’s important to know where to get reliable, accurate air quality data that corresponds to national, health-based standards. With the influx of air quality apps and various scales of calculation, you may be wondering where to turn.

Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) uses seven regulatory-grade air quality monitoring locations throughout Spokane County. The data from these monitors is used to determine the air quality for our region’s airshed, using the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is the index developed and used by the EPA to report air quality.

The EPA has established an AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act. Each of these pollutants has a national air quality standard set by EPA to protect public health. In Spokane, our Agency monitors and reports the AQI for PM10, PM2.5 and ground-level ozone.

When you turn to third party air quality reports, you are often looking at data that has been interpreted in different, non-standardized ways, using scales that have been created specifically for that platform. Additionally, the data being used is often taken from contributors around the world who are using personal air sensors.

While air sensors are useful for providing general information about air quality, air sensors have a number of limitations that include occasionally reporting questionable data points and a bias that may result in data that systematically over- or under-estimates the actual pollutant concentration.

Before you turn to third party air quality reports, consider the source. Spokane Clean Air and AirNow.gov provides accurate, reliable air quality information that uses a national, standardized scale to help you protect your health.