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 an adjustment, called AQHI-Plus, is being made to the AQHI in B.C. to improve the accuracy of the reported health risk during smoky events.

The most recent adjustment is called the Wildfire Season AQHI Plus which began on May 1, 2018 specifically for the wildfire season (May through September). This version of the AQHI Plus was designed by the BC Center for Disease Control for the Province of B.C. to better communicate health risks that are associated with wildfire smoke.

Recent research on air quality and health has demonstrated this adjustment also works well during the cool season (October through April). Based on this research, the Wildfire Season AQHI Plus will continue to be piloted until April 30, 2019 to determine if this version of the adjustment could be used year-round.

The Air Quality Health Index Variation across British Columbia (PDF) report is an overview of the AQHI and how it was developed to provide British Columbians with an estimate of short-term health risk caused by degraded air quality. To receive more information, e-mail the Air Quality team and include "Information on AQHI and AQHI-Plus" in the subject line.