How to Use Google Maps to Find Fresher Air

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The quality of the air around you has a big impact on your quality of life. In addition to the long-term effects on your health, poor air quality can make whatever you’re doing much harder—especially for those with respiratory conditions.

But air quality changes from location-to-location, day-to-day, and sometimes, from hour-to-hour. If you want to check the air in your area—and perhaps find somewhere where it’s fresher—it’s possible to do so using Google Maps. Here’s what to know.

How to check air quality using Google Maps

The air quality layer on Google Maps (on both Android and iOS) provides information on the conditions in your area, using data from sources including the Environmental Protection Agency.

You can add the air quality layer to your map by tapping on the button in the top right corner of your screen, then selecting “Air Quality.” It includes the Air Quality Index (AQI)—a measure of how healthy or unhealthy the air is to breathe—plus guidance for outdoor activities, and when the information was last updated.

How to monitor wildfires

Even if you don’t live in a part of the country that’s prone to wildfires, as we learned last summer, smoke from fires on the west coast can make its way to the east coast, leading to exceptionally poor air quality.

To keep an eye on fire-related conditions, you can turn on the wildfire layer in Google Maps, which provide details on active fires in your area using information from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Another option is to use the search function in Google Maps to look up “wildfires near me,” and that’ll bring up air quality and other information about the fire. In the next few months, Google will also be adding smoke data across the U.S. from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to their air quality information.

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