A number of tools are available to help you gauge air quality in your area. But one tool is right under your nose – well actually right above it. How far you can see on a given day can be a good indicator of air quality. The 5-3-1 visibility index can help you estimate smoke levels and decide what precautions to take.
This exercise will give you a good excuse to step outside – on a clear day.
First, determine your visual range by scoping out distant targets or familiar landmarks that you know are a given distance away.
If you can see 15 miles away the air quality is generally good. In the 5- to 15-mile range air quality is moderate and probably healthy except for sensitive groups such as those with respiratory conditions, particularly the closer to the 5-mile marker you get.
Here’s where the 5-3-1 index kicks in:
Under 5 miles
Air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. People in these groups should minimize outdoor activity.
Under 3 miles
Air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness should avoid all outdoor activities.
Under 1 mile
Air quality is very unhealthy, and in some cases may be hazardous. Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.
Remember, if you feel like you are having health effects from smoke exposure, take extra care to stay inside or get to an area with better air quality.