How to find out what the air quality is like in a destinationI live in Southern California, not far from LAX. Last week, the air was so bad that not only were my allergies acting up but I could also smell smoke in the air from the Woolsey Fire—and it was at least 20 miles away. I started doing some research to find out how bad the air around me was and whether I should take my two-year-old son on a road trip to escape it. Based on my findings, the most popular website informing people about air quality is AirNow, which is run by the U.S. government. Here’s the deal, direct from the site:

“Every day the Air Quality Index (AQI) tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, along with associated health effects that may be of concern. The AQI translates air quality data into numbers and colors that help people understand when to take action to protect their health.

“Map and forecast data are collected using federal reference or equivalent monitoring techniques or techniques approved by the state, local or tribal monitoring agencies. To maintain ‘real-time’ maps, the data are displayed after the end of each hour. Although preliminary data quality assessments are performed, the data in AirNow are not fully verified and validated through the quality assurance procedures monitoring organizations used to officially submit and certify data on the EPA Air Quality System (AQS).

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, tribal, state, and local agencies developed the AirNow system to provide the public with easy access to national air quality information. State and local agencies report the air quality index (AQI) for cities across the US and parts of Canada and Mexico.”

On, users can search by zip code, or by state then city using the drop-down menu. Fortunately, the air quality in L.A. has gotten a lot better since that day, so after a brief scare we’re back to being out and about. Still, this is a great resource for travelers. In addition to monitoring the quality of the air where you live, before a trip you can see what the air quality is like in the places you’ll be visiting. It’s especially helpful for those with respiratory diseases.


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