Information about local air quality is reported across the United States using air quality alerts such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index. However, the role of such alerts in raising awareness of air quality is unknown. We conducted this study to evaluate associations between days with Air Quality Index ≥101, corresponding to a categorization of air quality as unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, or hazardous, and air quality awareness among adults in the United States.
Data from 12,396 respondents to the 2016-2018 ConsumerStyles surveys were linked by geographic location and survey year to daily Air Quality Index data. We evaluated associations between the number of days in the past year with Air Quality Index ≥101 and responses to survey questions about awareness of air quality alerts, perception of air quality, and changes in behavior to reduce air pollution exposure using logistic regression.
Awareness of air quality alerts (prevalence ratio [PR] = 1.23; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15, 1.31), thinking/being informed air quality was bad (PR = 2.02; 95% CI = 1.81, 2.24), and changing behavior (PR = 2.27; 95% CI = 1.94, 2.67) were higher among respondents living in counties with ≥15 days with Air Quality Index ≥101 than those in counties with zero days in the past year with Air Quality Index ≥101. Each aspect of air quality awareness was higher among adults with than without asthma, but no differences were observed by heart disease status. Across quintiles of the number of days with Air Quality Index ≥101, air quality awareness increased among those with and without selected respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Among U.S. adults, air quality awareness increases with increasing days with alerts of unhealthy air. These findings improve our understanding of the extent to which air quality alerts prompt people to take actions to protect their health amidst poor air quality.

Published by Elsevier Inc.