Smoke from wildfires in Canada has drifted into the United States, impacting air quality across the Midwest and East Coast. At one point Tuesday, residents of New York City were said to be experiencing the worst air pollution of any major city in the world, sending residents scrambling indoors or, if they had to go outside, reaching for their pandemic-era box of N95 masks.
If you’re interested in tracking air quality levels near you, as changing wind conditions shift, to know which cities are affected, there are a few apps that can help track the US Air Quality Index (remember: higher is worse) as well as information on particular types of pollutants, like particulate matter and ozone that can irritate your lungs or aggravate different health conditions. And when air quality is low, you may want to shift activities indoors, run an air purifier if you have one in your home or office, and keep your windows shut.
The EPA’s AirNow
AirNow, from the Environmental Protection Agency, gives you access to official air quality index numbers for anywhere in the U.S., as well as specific maps showing wildfire and smoke-related data gathered from sensors around the country. Forecasts are also available for later in the week, so you can use the app to help plan any activities that might have you spending time outside.
You can download AirNow for iOS or Android, or browse the EPA data from the AirNow website on your phone or computer. Some U.S. states also offer their own apps, like California’s Smoke Spotter app, designed for wildfire season.
The European Union also offers its own air quality app. If you’re outside the U.S. and Europe, you can check if your country’s equivalent of the EPA, or your country’s weather-forecasting agency, offers its own air quality data.
AirVisual, from IQAir, provides information about air quality across the world, including the United States. It gathers information from official governmental air-quality sensors and private sensors, melding and filtering the data using its own algorithms. IQAir is the source of the widely cited statistic that had New York City’s air quality as the worst in the world Tuesday night.
Its app for iOS and Android can provide you with air quality data and forecasts for places of your choosing, related health recommendations, and notifications if air quality drops below a certain level. The apps are free, and they can also be used in conjunction with indoor air-quality monitors available from IQAir if you happen to have one.
AirCare is another app available for iOS and Android that can help you track air quality information near you. It has a simple interface that makes it easy to see the data you’re looking for, including official Air Quality Index numbers, as well as maps of where wildfires have been spotted, and detailed information on various types of pollen, which can be helpful for allergy sufferers. It also includes UV index data, which can help you plan for risks of sun exposure.
The app provides home screen widgets, Apple Watch compatibility, and push notifications when levels change. It’s free for iOS and Android.
Plume Labs Air Quality App
Plume Labs, acquired by AccuWeather in 2022, offers an app designed to let you plan activities around air quality levels near you throughout the day and even by location, showing local variations in the air quality that can be helpful for planning activities like a run, bike ride, or afternoon in the park.
Its app provides information on a variety of types of pollutants and overall air quality index data, as well as recommendations on safety for various types of activities. Some basic weather information, including temperature, wind speed, humidity, and UV index, are also available to help plan any outdoor excursions. The app is free for Android and iOS.