Air Quality

Air Quality Summary

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What is ground-level ozone and why is it important?

Ozone (O3) is created primarily from chemical reactions between NOx (oxides of nitrogen) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that occur in the presence of heat and sunlight. A large share of ozone-generating pollutants are produced by motor vehicles, although any fuel combustion source emits the pollutants that can contribute to ozone formation.

Ozone is a major problem in many urban areas, as well as rural areas downwind of metropolitan regions, where it can reduce lung capacity and increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, especially in children and the elderly.

What can be done to control ozone air pollution?

Control strategies for ozone may comprise a set of regulations that specify emission limits and/or control equipment that are deemed to be reasonable available control technology (RACT), best available control technology (BACT), or lowest achievable emission rates (LAER), depending on the severity of the nonattainment problem in the area.

NOx and VOC control equipment or programs may address specific industrial processes, or focus on on-road vehicles, non-road equipment such as locomotives, and nonpoint sources such as small industrial boilers, dry cleaners, and consumer solvents. Pollution prevention measures such as use of non- or low-VOC content solvents and coatings can also be part of an effective ozone control strategy.

On April 15, 2004, EPA designated 432 counties, including Mahoning and Trumbull counties in our region, and 42 partial counties as nonattainment areas for the 8-hour ozone standard, and these areas face deadlines between 2007 and 2024 (depending on the severity of their ozone problem) for attaining that standard.

On March 15, 2005, EPA announced the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which addresses ozone transport across the boundaries of 25 states and the District of Columbia. CAIR contains reduction targets for NOx during the summer that can be met through a cap-and-trade system for electric utilities.

Particle Pollution

What is Particle Pollution?

Particle pollution or what is also commonly referred to as soot or PM2.5 are tiny solid particles and liquid droplets measuring only 2.5 micrometers in size, or 40 times smaller than a grain of table salt! Particle pollution is released into our air by cars, trucks, power plants, industrial facilities, as well as from residential fireplaces. Unlike ozone, particle pollution does not need sunlight or heat to form. As a result, particle pollution can occur year-round.

Health Concerns

Because of its microscopic size, particle pollution can be inhaled deeply into our lungs causing serious health problems. Exposure to particle pollution can aggravate lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, causing increased medication use and doctor visits.

Particle pollution exposure has also been linked to heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmias. Particle pollution can change the variability of your heart rate making you more susceptible to heart attacks. People with heart disease such as congestive heart disease, coronary artery disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at greater risk.