You can now use Google Maps to find fresh air

You can now use Google Maps to find fresh air thumbnail

Google Maps makes checking traffic before going out a routine reflex. Now, it offers the same insight into air quality in your local area. Employees from Google Maps, Google Search and a blog Wednesday shared a new Air Quality Layer that can be used for monitoring this metric.

To view it, open Google Maps for Android or iOS. Click the “Layers” icon in the top left corner of the screen. This is the same button that you would use to switch between street or satellite view modes. You’ll now be able to add air quality information to your map. You’ll see numbers appear across the map when you select the option. These numbers will tell you the Air Quality Index (or AQI) from readings in these regions.

Google says these figures are pulled from government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as third-party sources like PurpleAir, which has its own network of hyper-local sensors. The pop-up will show you the closest readings it has taken from if you select a reading.

[Related: Wildfires could hit your hometown. Here’s how to prepare.]

The layer also provides context to help you understand when and what the readings mean. The AQI rates air between zero and 500, with the quality decreasing as the number goes up. Google claims that its air quality feature will also provide “guidance for outdoors activities” to help users decide if it’s safe to spend extended periods outside.

It’s a particularly timely feature for the summer, as heat and sunshine can exacerbate pollutants, making the air less healthy to breathe in. In recent years, larger and more intense wildfires have also contributed to dangerously high AQI readings. This has led to a spike in popularity for personal AQI readers in wildfire-prone regions like California, where residents attempt to become better informed about such risks. According to the post , company, Google will also add smoke data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the “coming months”. This is in response to searches for “best air filters that prevent wildfire smoke” having doubled in the last year. If you’re particularly concerned about wildfires, you can also add a “Wildfire Layer” in Google Maps that flags any fires in your search area and provides details courtesy of the National Interagency Fire Center.

Colleen Hagerty

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