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New air quality app maps Oregon wildfire smoke dangers

The free OregonAir app uses smiling or frowning face emojis to quickly show air quality across the state.
Hazy sky in Northeast Portland (Photo: Brandon Bockman)

Oregon’s new air-quality web site has had nearly a half-million visits since wildfire activity picked up July 15, creating smoky skies over much of the state.

Others have downloaded a new companion mobile app that quickly shows whether the air you’re breathing is safe.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality gave its Air Quality Index a major overhaul after heavy use during last year’s intense wildfires caused the site to crash multiple times.

More: Air quality in Portland downgraded to 'unhealthy'

In addition to being more reliable, the new site also includes meteorological data, downloadable historical data and analysis tools, and information from the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

The free OregonAir app uses smiling or frowning face emojis to quickly show air quality across the state.

Screen shot of PortlandAir App

On Friday, for example, a magenta frowning face warned about hazardous conditions in Eagle Point, where the Air Quality Index reached 340. Green smiley faces and yellow “meh” faces covered the Willamette Valley

The higher the value on the Air Quality Index, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.

A value of 50 or below represents good air quality with little potential to affect even those with respiratory conditions, while a value over 300 represents hazardous air quality and is likely to affect even healthy individuals.

The system allows viewers to break out individual components of the Air Quality Index — ozone, particulates and nitrogen dioxide.

To see only wildfire smoke, look just at fine particulates, listed as PM 2.5, DEQ spokeswoman Katherine Benenati said.

Information, including video tutorials and a link to the new Air Quality Index, can be found at http://www.oregon.gov/deq/aq/Pages/aqi.aspx. Find the app by searching for OregonAir in your app store.

Air pollution can be a particular concern to the elderly, children and those with respiratory conditions, but high levels of pollution can affect everyone.