Decoding Different Air Quality Levels 

Does it ring a bell when people talk about the code red or orange about air quality alerts?

You might have read this about in newspapers or listen to this on news channels. The various colour codes make up air quality alerts, and you should know what to do in air alerts.

An air quality alert system is designed for informing the public about the levels of current air pollution. It advises vulnerable groups like the elderly, kids, and individuals with respiratory illnesses; to take precautionary measures.

National Air Quality Index (AQI)

Under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched on 17 September 2014. It is tasked with monitoring and reporting on air quality every day. It informs the public about the possible health impacts of worsening air quality.

The national air quality index considers eight pollutants, including PM10, PM2.5, O3, SO2, NO2, CO, NH3, and Pb. It measures the air quality and informs about the types and concentrations of various harmful gases present in the air.

When the concentration of harmful gases like Carbon Monoxide (CO)), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) exceeds the norms devised by WHO ( World Health Organization), it indicates the deteriorating air quality and confirms the air pollution.

In Indian cities, the PM 2.5 and PM 10 particles are the main contributors to air pollution. When these particles’ level increases in the air, it causes eye irritation, shortness of breathing, nausea, dizziness, and other respiratory problems.

AQI Categories

Based on the air quality, AQI comprises six categories: good, satisfactory, moderately polluted, poor, very poor, and severe. With the progressive deterioration of the air quality, air quality goes from good to poor and then severe.

The AQI works as a yardstick that has values from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the air pollution and associated health concerns.

An AQI value of 50 or below signifies good air quality, while an AQI value of more than 300 signifies hazardous air quality.

Each AQI category represents a different level of health concern. It corresponds to a specific colour code that makes it easy for the general public to determine the unhealthy levels of air quality and take preventive measures quickly.

Different Air Quality Levels

Good (AQI value 0–50):  This category has a green colour code, and it represents satisfactory air quality with minimal impact on public health. It poses little or no risk at large.

Satisfactory (AQI value 51–100): This category has a light green colour code. It represents acceptable air quality but may cause minor breathing discomfort for sensitive people.

Moderately polluted (AQI value 101–200): This category has a yellow colour code. It may lead to breathing discomfort for individuals with lung diseases like asthma, heart disease, kids, and older adults. This air is regarded as unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Poor (AQI value 201–300): This category has an orange colour code. The prolonged inhalation in this poor quality air results in breathing discomfort to sensitive groups, including elderly people, kids, asthmatics, individuals with lungs, and heart disease.

Very Poor (AQI value 301–400): This category has a red colour code. The prolonged inhalation in the air with very poor quality standards causes respiratory disorders in individuals.

It worsens the symptoms in people who have asthma, lung and heart diseases. When air quality worsens to this level, it may prompt emergency condition alerts.

Severe (AQI value 401-500): This category has a purple colour code. It may cause adverse respiratory impacts even on healthy individuals. It poses severe health risks in people with lungs and heart diseases.

What to Do When air Quality is Poor?

In addition to the following AQI recommendations, air pollution people should take some pre-emptive measures for improving air quality.

  • As power plant emissions, vehicular emissions, and industrial emissions are the major source of pollutants, one must conserve energy and use eco-friendly vehicles for commuting. Take public transportation and don’t go outdoors as far as possible.
  • Put off the unnecessary lights and switch off air-conditioning if not required. Set thermostats at lower values in winter and higher in summer. Only use energy-star appliances. Asthmatic patients should always carry their inhalers with them.
  • Ensure to refuel your vehicle only in the evening or night when it is dark. This helps in avoiding the reaction of polluting emissions with heat and sunlight. It prevents the creation of ground-level ozone. Always keep your car tires inflated and your car well-serviced.
  • Avoid using aerosol products. Don’t burn garbage, leaves, or wood for preparing food. Always use paints and cleaning products with lower VOCs for avoiding air pollution. Use a manual lawn mower instead of a gas-powered lawnmower.
  • In air quality alert, the vulnerable groups should stay indoors and avoid any sort of physical exertion. Try to keep the windows closed even though you cannot see or smell pollution. Use an air conditioner when you are driving rather than drawing air from outside.
  • It’s recommended to install an air purifier with HEPA (high efficiency) filters at home or office. It traps both allergens and particulate matter so that you can breathe pure air while staying indoors. Use a face mask when going outdoors.
  • Avoid using those home air purifiers that create ozone and render indoor air quality worse. Ensure to exercise only indoors. Avoid exercising when the pollution levels are high, like morning rush hours.


An air quality alert helps you to determine the presence of poor air quality quickly. Breathing in poor air quality can severely impact your health. It worsens breathing-related conditions like asthma, allergies, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and COPD.

Sensitive or high-risk groups should take proper precautionary steps in the air quality alert with yellow, red, and above colour codes. The government is taking active steps in controlling air pollution in the country, but the larger responsibility lies with us.

The air quality alerts help in reducing emergency room visits for asthma and respiratory disorders. However, this doesn’t lead to a reduction in deaths from cardiovascular or respiratory diseases. Air pollution is a larger issue that requires to be tackled on a long-term basis.


Preksha is passionate about writing articles that will inspire readers to make better choices. You will find her eating desserts for lunch, dinner and any time of the day. Also, she is the chief playlist engineer for any road trip.

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