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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Air Quality Health Advisories

The Air Quality Index (AQI) (exit DHS) is a scale for reporting daily air quality.  The AQI tells you how clean or polluted the air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you.  The AQI is divided into six (6) categories:

Good

(Green)

Moderate

(Yellow)

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

(Orange)

Unhealthy

(Red)

Very Unhealthy

(Purple)

Hazardous

(Brown)

Air quality health advisories (exit DHS) are issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) when the AQI for ground level ozone or fine particle pollution (PM2.5) reaches the orange level or above.  

How to protect yourself and your family when a health advisory has been issued

When a health advisory is issued because the AQI is in the ORANGE level ("unhealthy for sensitive groups"), people with heart or lung disease, asthma, and other sensitive groups like older adults and children, are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous outside activities.

Additionally:

  • Pay close attention to cardiac symptoms (chest pain or shortness of breath) and respiratory symptoms (coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing), and see your doctor if you have concerns or are experiencing symptoms.

  • Keep prescription rescue medications (such as an emergency inhaler for asthma) on hand in case of exacerbated symptoms.

  • Everyone with asthma should have a written plan for treating symptoms that is shared with caregivers (at schools, camps, childcare or other facilities). 

When the AQI is in the RED level ("unhealthy"), everyone should cut back or reschedule strenuous outside activities and people in sensitive groups should avoid any strenuous outside activity.  

Things you can do to improve air quality during and after an Air Advisory day

  • Reduce driving when possible and don’t leave vehicle engines idling.
  • Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines until late afternoon or evening.
  • Wait until late afternoon or evening to fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
  • Conserve electricity and set your air conditioner at a higher temperature.
  • Minimize the use of wood burning fireplaces, stoves, boilers and outdoor fires, including grilling outdoors (especially on fine particle pollution advisory days). 

Three easy ways to know if an air quality health advisory has been issued

  1. Go to the DNR website to find out if Air Quality Notices may have been issued for your area (exit DHS) 

  2. Call the Daily Air Hotline at: 1-866-DAILY AIR (1-866-324-5924)

  3. Subscribe to EnviroFlash to receive Air Quality Notifications by email (exit DHS) 

For more information

Contact your local health department, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services: (608) 266-1120 or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Air Monitoring Section: (608) 266-1058.

US EPA Information on Ozone (exit DHS)  

US EPA Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution (exit DHS)   

Midwest Haze Cam (exit DHS)  

Back to Air Issue Fact Sheets Page

Last Revised:  February 28, 2014