We applaud when we step out into a clear, sunny sky; an affirmation of life of sorts. There are emotions involved with the type of day we see and our reaction is measurable. Clear, sunny day = happy and smiling. Gray, overcast and rain = not happy, head down and under the hoodie. Let’s not forget the stagnant air day = really not happy; wondering what am I sucking into my lungs!

There is another variable associated with the day’s “condition,” the quality of the air. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set standards of which to measure the quality of our air. Those standards, for simplicity sake, are color coded as well. The Air Quality Index (AQI) offers us a quick understanding of what the air is like that we are breathing. The index has a numbering system, sort of like tape measure that reads from 0 to 500. The numbers carry values that we all should be aware of. The 0 to 100 range is 0 = really good air, 100 = acceptable, however some are at risk. Going up the scale air quality is worse, reaching a point where it exceeds 301 or higher there is “health warning” attached. 

There are five major pollutants the EPA uses to established the AQI and all are regulated by the Clean Air Act. They are – ground-level ozone, Particle pollution (aka particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. 

Interested in air quality? Check out ‘The Case for a Quality Stovetop Exhaust Hood.

Using PurpleAir to fill in the gaps

Where I live, Washington’s Upper Columbia Basin, there are no air quality monitoring stations close enough to be meaningful to me or my community. I was concerned and curious enough about the quality of my air that I went on a quest, a quest to find an affordable air quality monitor for my personal use. It didn’t take too long. I found PurpleAir. I’ve had my air quality monitor for three years now. 

An air quality map of Washington with data from home PurpleAir monitors. Is your community’s air quality being monitored? Screenshot source.

Based in Utah, PurpleAir has been around for some years and is global. The outdoor unit they make and market is $229.00. They also make an indoor monitor for $179.00. The outdoor unit has been tested and, for a unit in this price range, does a very good job of providing air quality data accuracy down to 2.5 microns. Unlike most official AQI stations, the PurpleAir monitor provides real time readings – no averaging over a specific time frame. The unit connects to your home or office WiFi and then downloads the data to the PurpleAir website map.

Here in my community, we can be blanketed for weeks with thick smoke from wildland fires. The community needed to know what we were breathing. My Rotary Club purchased four PurpleAir units as a community project. For the past few years members for our community have known what the air quality is by using the PurpleAir website map. 

I have no monetary interest in PurpleAir and I have not been paid to write about PurpleAir or the monitor they manufacture. Simply put, I am really impressed with the product. 

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Feature photo: A PurpleAir outdoor air quality monitor. Image source.