Air Quality Health Index

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) provides hourly air quality readings and related health messages. The AQHI reports on the health risks posed by a mixture of pollutants, including:

The rating for the AQHI is based on the combination of the health risks from each of the pollutants in the index. This method differs from the older Air Quality Index (AQI), which determined air quality based on the highest value of only one pollutant.

British Columbians can use the AQHI to check the quality of outdoor air before heading off to work or play.

How to Use the AQHI

In British Columbia, the Air Quality Health Index is available to more than 80 percent of the population in 14 communities — throughout Metro Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley, as well as in Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Vernon, Victoria and the South Okanagan (view the full list in the left hand navigation). The AQHI:

  • illustrates the level of health risk with a number and colour scale of 1 to 10 or higher;
  • labels the health risk as low, moderate, high or very high;
  • provides the predicted air-quality health risk over the next 36 hours;
  • provides advice on minimizing the health risk from air pollution.

Smoke & AQHI Adjustments

Elevated smoke concentrations have been shown to sometimes cause the AQHI to under-report health risk. Therefore two adjustments, each called AQHI-Plus, are being made to the AQHI to improve the accuracy of the reported health risk during smoke events. One adjustment operates in summer, the other in winter.

  1. The Wildfire Season AQHI Plus adjustment will be piloted for five months (May through September 2018) and is designed to better communicate health risks that are associated with wildfire smoke.
  2. The Cool Season AQHI Plus adjustment is under development.  When completed it will operate for seven months (October through April).

Each of these AQHI Plus adjustments was developed by the BC Center for Disease Control for the Province and will be piloted from May 2018 through April 2019. To receive more information e-mail the Air Quality team and include "Information on AQHI and AQHI-Plus" in the subject line.

For more information: Air Quality Health Index Variation across British Columbia (PDF) - An overview of the Air Quality Health Index and how it has been developed to provide British Columbians with an estimate of short-term health risk caused by degraded air quality.