What is the AQHI?

Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a measure that provides information about the relative health risks associated with local air quality1. The system rates air quality on a scale from 1 to 10, as follows:


The higher the AQHI number, the greater the health risk. Typically ratings will not exceed 10, unless the amount of air contamination is extremely high. An example of an instance in which air quality might receive this rating would be during a forest fire smoke event, when smoke is transported into communities from fires within the province, or from other provinces, territories, or the United States.

The AQHI provides health messaging to help the public protect themselves from outdoor air pollution. As each individual reacts differently to levels of air pollution, people can track their symptoms and use the Air Quality Health Index to self calibrate and determine at what AQHI level to make changes to outdoor activity. Typically those persons who are considered ‘at-risk’—those with respiratory complications, young children or the elderly—should avoid outdoor activities if the AQHI reaches a value of 7 or greater. Even those who are relatively healthy, fit and active can consult the AQHI to decide when and how much activity to undertake outdoors. The AQHI issues forecasts for air quality daily.

To access additional information, resources, fact sheets and more about air quality in Alberta, please visit the Alberta Government Air Quality Health Index page.


AQHI Health Messages

The AQHI has an easy-to-navigate chart outlining the various levels of health risk, and associates each with health messages for at risk and general populations. It suggests steps we can take to reduce our pollution exposure.

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Environmental Monitoring and the AQHI

The Environmental Monitoring and Science Division (EMSD) (formerly AEMERA) is currently involved in a number of activities related to air quality monitoring. The summer of 2015 saw a number of extensive wildfires ignite over parts of B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan. EMSD was closely involved in monitoring the impacts of the fires on air quality in the province.

In response to requests from communities, EMSD deployed four of its portable air quality monitors to northwestern Alberta. Working with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), the Alberta Support and Emergency Response Team (ASERT) and the local communities, these instruments were installed in Fox Lake, Meander River, High Level and Fort Vermillion. As part of this program, EMSD also worked with the Dene Tha First Nation in Northwest Alberta.

The technology installed in these and other communities across Alberta provides real-time air monitoring data during emergencies in communities that do not already have permanent air quality stations. They work in addition to the existing 20 plus permanent air quality stations operated by EMSD and our partners that report the Air Quality Health Index.