For Health Professionals

The Air Quality Index for Health (AQIH) can be used by health professionals to help patients who are sensitive to air pollution manage their condition and reduce their symptoms.

The AQIH combines real-time measurements from the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network to produce a four-band index with health advice based on World Health Organisation Guidelines.

The AQIH band (good, fair, poor, very poor) is calculated hourly and is available on a web-based colour-coded map and on twitter @EPAAirQuality.

Health advice is provided for two groups: those at risk from air pollution and the general population. As a health professional, you may be asked by your patients about whether they belong to an at risk group. Adults and children with heart or lung conditions including asthma are those considered to be at higher risk from air pollution.

People in at risk groups may experience symptoms when air quality is fair, poor or very poor however those who are highly sensitive to air pollution may even experience symptoms when air quality is good.

The general population may experience symptoms when air quality is poor or very poor.

Using the AQIH to assist patients

Health professionals can help at risk patients use the AQIH to increase their own awareness of how sensitive they are to air pollution and to take preventive action when air quality is fair, poor or very poor.

In Ireland, air quality is fair, poor or very poor on 20-30 days per year.

In rural areas, fair air quality is mainly caused by the pollutant, ozone. This naturally occurring pollutant is highest in spring and summer and is higher in the west of the country than in the east. It is higher in rural areas than in towns and cities.

In small towns and large towns, fair air quality is usually due to ozone or particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). In these areas, the most significant local source of particulate matter is domestic use of solid fuel, e.g. coal and wood. Levels are highest in the heating season - early spring, late autumn and winter. Air quality will be poor or very poor on about 10 days per year. This is most likely during periods of cold and still weather.

In cities, fair, poor and very poor air quality is often due to traffic emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

For detailed instructions and information on the AQIH please see the webpage Air Quality Index for Health. Additional information is available in the reports Development of the Air Quality Index for Health and Air Quality Indices and Health Related Messages - Review of the existing evidence base for the Air Quality Health Information Group.