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Environment

What Does That Air Pollution Reading Actually Mean?

Share My Air converts air quality data into more relatable terms, like the equivalent number of cigarettes smoked.
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Recent advances in satellite measurements and portable air sensors have made it easier than ever to track fine particulate matter—the tiny junk that gets in your lungs and causes cardiovascular and respiratory disease. But accurate measurements alone are not enough; you have to be able to interpret them. The World Health Organization guideline for safe air is an annual average of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM 2.5, for instance, but what does that really mean to the average person?

A new interactive graphic called Share My Air eliminates that confusion by converting real-time air quality data from cities into the equivalent number of cigarettes smoked, time spent in a car with a smoker, and time spent living with a smoker. Kevin Kononenko created the program to communicate how dirty air affects personal health and to encourage people to reduce their local air pollution footprint.