There’s an app for that: checking local air quality before you go outside

From dust to smoke, this app shows if you’re safe
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:40 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The dangers of wildfire smoke reach beyond those with pre-existing health problems. Levels like the ones seen on the East Coast threaten everybody there. But a website and an app allow you to watch air quality on your own.

“In fact I have plans to travel to the East Coast in a couple weeks, and I will completely change my plans if it’s like this,” said Natalie Shepp.

Shepp has been watching the conditions on the East Coast after days of smoke from Canadian wildfires shrouded New York and Washington, D.C. It’s not just personal for her, but it’s her job as senior program manager of outreach and communication for Pima County Environmental Quality.

“So you know if you’re in the green zone, regardless of what the pollutant is, even if you don’t know what the standard is, you know that you’re ok. As it goes higher, it gets worse,” she explained about a map of air quality monitors on

She showed the map on the phone app that bears the same name. Air quality monitor locations appear green and yellow in southern Arizona on the map, but they turn red and purple on the East Coast.

“It’s basically taking those health-based standards which are really complicated and difficult to understand and putting them in an easy to understand format for the public,” Shepp explained.

Southern Arizona has had dust storms that can obscure vision and reach dangerous air quality levels for a few hours, but dust contains larger particles that are easier to filter. Shepp explained that the smoke in New York and D.C., at high intensity and for days on end, can get deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream.

“People with asthma and people with heart and lung conditions definitely need to be mindful and I imagine that they’re going to see on the East Coast higher hospital admissions. That will be interesting to see afterwards if that is the case,” she said.

She said that she will follow her advice if conditions get bad again when she travels to the East Coast.

“I don’t want to expose myself to that, so I’ll probably stay indoors,” she said.

Shepp said anyone going into the smoke will need an N95 mask for protection. But she said that the best advice is to stay inside, where air conditioning offers filtration.

The website is and the app can be found by the same name on your smartphone.

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