AQI in the MOV

Why can the numbers be so good if we live in such a polluted valley?

OK, this one comes from a co-worker who swears this came from a  viewer last week.

Every summer we watch as the AQI (Air Quality Index) climbs out of the "good" lower 50 levels, into the "Moderate" second 50 levels.

Occasionally, we note when it exceeds 100 into the area of concern.

But I'm told one area lady asked "Why are the numbers so low if our valley is so air-polluted?"

It's a good question, but let's look at a few of the underlying assumptions.

The AQI is a value reported by the state of West Virginia, every business day at 7:30 a.m. in locations from around the state's populated areas.

It is a single value they assign, based upon readings that in our area, come from Neal School. It's an automated reading, so it is there every day they choose to do a "sweep" of the data and share it.


The AQI is reported on their website by the West Virginia DEP - Division of Air Quality. The table  lists the AQI for West Virginia cities where daily monitoring data is recorded. The current AQI rating, the critical pollutant, and the current peak concentration  for the pollutant as based on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are listed.

The reported AQI is the calculated value for the past 24 hours in that area and, dependent upon each monitoring site, measures concentrations of five criteria pollutants: carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, PM2.5 and PM10.

Interpreting the AQI

USEPA uses the AQI for five major pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act – ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, USEPA has established a scale based on the NAAQS to protect against harmful health effects.

Now, you can go read up on the AQI by doing a google search and see what all goes into this number, but basically, it measures how much particulate matter or "stale air" is present each morning at 7:30.

This is just one indicator that helps patients with breathing difficulties determine whether to: venture out today;  consult their medical professional;   take a dose of their medicine; or whether to worry at all.

Most of us, without serious COPD or other breathing difficulties, take this value for granted, cause we're going to get out and go to work no matter what that value reads.  But some people depend upon it.

The other part of this question assumes that the air IS polluted in the MOV, and polluted to such an extent that the AQI should be pegged at the high end of the scale almost daily.

Note: It is rare for the AQI to stray up above 100 in our area without some concern being expressed in other quarters.  Certainly, values near 150 would be headline story material, but we almost NEVER see that.

So, we are left with the question, IS the MOV air polluted?

It depends on who you ask.  And, there are  studies underway right now, to try to answer that and determine to what level we are at.

Please don't think that the two levels are the same...they are not, but they  do interact.

We'll have more on this later.  (If you have breathing difficulties, ask your doctor about this immediately.)




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