What does an AQI of 500 look like?

The Air Quality Index exceeding the scale of 301-500 is considered as hazardous. This indicates dangerous levels of pollutants in the air. This air quality index even deteriorates indoor air quality and poses several health hazards to us. 

So in this article we will discuss what an AQI of 500 looks like, how it affects our health and what measures we should take to keep ourselves safe from the adverse effects of pollution. 

What does an AQI of 500 look like?

The Air Quality Index of 500 is considered as Hazardous. At this AQI the risk of serious health issues increases dramatically. It is highly recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency USA that we should restrict our outdoor exposure. 

Why is the Air Quality Index important? 

The Air Quality Index tells you whether the air is clean or polluted. This can help us protect ourselves from the exposure of harmful pollutants.  

Below is the table showing the Air Quality Index: 

Air Quality IndexLevels Color coding 
0-50  Good Green 
51-100 Moderateyellow
101-150 Unhealthy For  Sensitive Groups Orange 
151-200  UnhealthyRed
201-300  Very Unhealthy Purple
301-500  Hazardous Maroon

The Air Quality Index is important because of the following reasons: 

  • AQI allows us to compare the air quality of different places.
  • We can check the improvement and degradation of air quality in a particular place. 
  • AQI alerts the people against the unhealthy pollution levels in the ambient air. 

Health issues related to the AQI of 500 

The high levels of pollutants lingering in the ambient air can cause several lung and cardiovascular diseases.

Below are some of the health effects related to the AQI of 500: 

  • Asthma
  • Coughing, throat irritation
  • Stinging eyes
  • Chest tightness
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Cardiovascular conditions like stroke and heart attacks.
  • High concentration of ozone reduces lung functioning. 
  • Causes inflammation of airways
  • Further worsens Emphysema 
  • Worsen the condition of asthmatics and leads to emergency visits to hospitals

People with preexisting heart and lung conditions, children, elderly people, active people doing strenuous exercise etc, are at much risk to these dangerous levels of pollution. 

How can we keep ourselves fit amidst the dangerous AQI levels? 

Below are some of the measures you can adopt to stay safe at the AQI levels reaching 500: 


Try to stay indoors and do not open windows 

When the AQI hits the dangerous level we should avoid outdoor exposure. The AQI of 500 can also infiltrate our house so the doors and windows should be closed all the time. 

Keep monitoring the air pollution levels

You can keep a check on the air quality index of your area to get insight about the pollution levels. There are certain websites designed for this purpose such as the Environmental Protection Agency. These sites can be accessed anytime of the day. You can also contact the local hospitals to get an insight. The local news and radio channels also notify you about the Air Quality Index of your area. 


Exercise indoors at higher levels of AQI 

We should stay indoors when the AQI hits 500 because at this level the concentration of pollutants reaches drastic levels. If we happen to inhale these toxic pollutants it can cause serious health issues.  

Below is the activity recommendation table that will help you to choose the right time for outdoor activities:

Air Quality IndexShort duration (15 mins )Duration for Prolonged exertion (1 hour)Duration for strenuous activities( 2-4+ hrs)Duration for scheduled activities like sports events 
0-50  Good Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities 
51-100 ModerateSafe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities Safe for outdoor activities 
101-150  Unhealthy For      Sensitive Groups Short duration physical activities can be done Ideal for mild physical activities Ideal for mild physical activities with frequent rest periodsIdeal for mild physical activities with frequent rest periods
151-200  UnhealthyShort duration physical activities can be done but watch for symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath Mild exercise can be done but watch for symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath Avoid doing strenuous exercises with frequent rest periods All the outdoor  activities should be reschedule or relocation is ideal in this situation 
201-300  Very Unhealthy Restrict outdoor activity, preferably stay indoorsRestrict outdoor activity, preferably stay indoorsRestrict outdoor activity, preferably stay indoorsAll the outdoor activities should be reschedule or relocation is ideal in this situation

Install  Air  Purifiers to remove pollutants 

Air purifiers are devices which circulate the air through a set of filters and capture the contaminants like; microscopic particles such as dust, allergens, molds, spores, bacteria, etc, that are floating around. Hence purifies the air around you.

Some of the best air purifiers with HEPA are as follows: 

Westinghouse 1701 HEPA Air Purifier with Patented Medical Grade NCCO Technology Westinghouse air purifier uses the patented NCCO technology (Nano Confined Catalytic Oxidation) which kills the harmful pollutants by the action of active oxygen. The harmful pollutants are decomposed into harmless compounds such as carbon dioxide and water moleculesThe filter offers a removal efficiency of 99.97% against harmful viruses and bacteria and also removes 99.72% of particulate matter.This air purifier offers a four stage purification process; namely the Pre-filter, Oxygen Generator, True HEPA filter, and the NCCO Reactor.Westinghouse air purifier is a medical grade true HEPA filter with removal efficiency of 99.97 against allergens as small as 0.3 microns. When the filter needs to be replaced the filter indicator provides an alert. The purifier is suitable for large to medium rooms like bedroom, kitchen, office, etc having an area of about 300 sq ft.
GermGuardian True HEPA Filter Air PurifierGerm guardian 5 in 1 air purifier is an electrostatic HEPA air filter and offers a removal efficiency of about 99.97% against particles as small as 0.3 microns. Efficiently removes harmful germs like viruses, odor causing bacteria, mold spores, mildew, and other allergens like;  dust, pet hair, and other large particles.The efficient UV-C light kills airborne viruses such as influenza, staph and rhinovirus. The filter also removes the VOC concentration with the help of titanium dioxide. The activated charcoal filter is effective against cooking odor, tobacco smoke, fumes, pet odor etc. Offers quiet operation; with the Ultra-quiet sleep mode it operates on low sound levels to get you a good night’s sleep.  GermGuardian Air Purifiers are ideal for medium to large rooms having an area of about 743 sq ft  
Instant Air PurifierInstant air purifiers are proven to kill 99.9% of covid-19 virus, bacteria, mold, and other harmful viruses. With its Advanced 3-in-1filtration; HEPA-13, Activated Carbon, Antimicrobial coating and plasma ion technology it removes 99.97% of pollutants like tobacco smoke, pet dander, certain odors and other impurities. Its advanced sensors offer a 24×7 air quality monitoring with auto fan speed adjust feature.It filters the air in an area of 126 sq ft 5x per hour With its whisper quiet night mode it offers lower noise for a sound sleep.The filters last upto 8 month, after that it needs to be replaced. 
Shark HE601 Air Purifier 6 True HEPA With its high speed  six micro fan speed it offers an even distribution of airflow. Its Clean Sense IQ monitors  air quality, auto-adjusts power and constantly maintains clean airflow.The filter has an efficiency of 99.98% against particle size upto 0.3 microns. Highly efficient against dust, dander, allergens, smoke, and household odors like cooking, smoking, cleaning products etc.  Ideal for rooms having a dimension of 1,200 square feet. 
Elechomes EPI081 Air Purifier Comes with a 4-in-1 purification system namely; The pre-filter, ATP-HEPA protective filter, activated carbon filter, and clean-room grade H13 true HEPA filter.ideal  for bedrooms, living rooms, offices etc.Purifies an area of upto 215 sq.ft within an hour Operates at noise levels as low as 23dB.Comes with an  advanced noise-reducing and double ball-bearing fan blade to keep noise levels low;  ideal for a peaceful sleep. Energy efficient and cost effective; comes with an affordable replacement filter and costs only $7.5 for 8 hours of usage. 
Miko Air Purifier For Home HEPA Filter Air Cleaner Miko air purifier comes with several interesting features  like multiple fan speeds, built-in timer, maximum surface area for air flow, all around suction, replacement filter indicator and essential oil port. The filter is made of H13 medical grade filter, a preliminary filter, and anti-bacterial filter for super clean filtration and performance.Large filtration components that offers all rounded purificationMiko air purifiers are effective against allergies, dust, pollen, pet dander, smoke, bacteria, viruses, germs, fungi, mold etc. The Oscillating Intake process removes all particles in a tornado motion and  helps maximize efficiency.Comes with an airtight insulation. Erosion protectant  ensures safety and durability.

Run air conditioners on full speed

When the AQI hits such a dramatic level of pollution try to run your air conditioners on full speed continuously. This creates continuous airflow  and does not permit any particulates to enter the house. 

You can find the links to some air conditioners in the links below:

Air conditioners Why i recommend it 
AmazonBasics Window-Mounted Air Conditioner Remote controlled AC with dehumidifier Built in filter can be washed and reused Comes with an Auto restart and shut off feature 
LG 6,000 BTU 115V Window Air Conditioner Quiet operation: produces  sound as low as 52dComes with three fan speed options and allows customized cooling Auto restart feature Provides a cooling upto 260 sq ft Ideal for medium rooms

Install HVAC systems 

The HVAC system works efficiently towards filtering airborne contaminants. If you have a central heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) at home, set the fan to the “on” position rather than auto, especially when you have visitors. This helps in continuous circulation of air. The filter should be upgraded on a timely basis in order to maintain its efficiency.

Below are the best HVAC systems for improving the air flow in your room:

HVAC Systems Why i recommend it 
Honeywell F300E1019 Electronic Air Cleaner

This can be operated with gas, oil and AC systems. Efficiency for capturing particles is upto 98%.Has a very low pressure drop
DAIKIN 9,000 BTU 17 SEER Wall-Mounted Ductless Mini-Split Inverter Air Conditioner  Daikin’s ductless technology offers  greater  energy efficiency; cools and warms up the room fast.Smart inverter technology with integrated inverted variable speed compressorProvides continuous heating and cooling with minimum temperature fluctuations.Quiet operation; with indoor sound levels as low as 37 decibels. 



Don’t smoke cigarettes 

Smoking cigarettes can release  upto 7,000 chemicals out of which about 70 of them are carcinogenic. The tobacco smoke also affects the efficiency of your air filters. Some of the major chemicals include; benzene, acrolein, formaldehyde etc. These toxic chemicals have several health hazards including lung cancer. 

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

What causes polluted air?

What causes PM10 in the house?

What causes bad air quality?


So in this article we discussed what an AQI of 500 looks like, how it affects our health and what measures we should take to keep ourselves safe from the adverse effects of pollution. Hope you found this article helpful. 



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