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Air quality indices: a review

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National directives on air quality oblige nations to monitor and report on their air quality, allowing the public to be informed on the ambient pollution levels. The last is the reason for the always increasing interest, demonstrated by the number of publications on this topic in recent years, in air quality/pollution indices: since the concentration of individual pollutants can be confusing, concentration measurements are conveniently transformed in terms of an air quality index. In this way, complex situations are summarized in a single figure, letting comparisons in time and space be possible. In this paper we will give an overview about the Air Quality/Pollution Indices proposed in literature and/or adopted by countries, trying also to categorize them into homogeneous groups. For the classification different approaches can be followed. Since in real life exposure to mixtures of chemicals occurs, with additive, synergistic or antagonistic effects, here we will distinguish between indices that consider the conjoint effect of pollutants and indices only based on the actual most dangerous pollutant. This brief review on air pollution indices shows, on one side, the wide interest in the problem, on the other, the lack of a common strategy which allows to compare the state of the air for cities that follow different directives. The main differences between the indices will be also described.

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The research was supported by a 2007 grant of University of Palermo for Cooperation and International Relationships (CORI) titled “Un indicatore aggregato della qualitá dell’aria”.

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Correspondence to Antonella Plaia.

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Plaia, A., Ruggieri, M. Air quality indices: a review. Rev Environ Sci Biotechnol 10, 165–179 (2011).

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