Air quality and air pollution represent major environmental and health concerns in the United States and around the world. If you’ve ever walked outside to a sky filled with haze or had difficulty breathing outside, air pollution may have been to blame.
Particle pollution represents a unique challenge because it has natural sources (for example, dust/dirt) and is also contributed to by industrial pollution. Smoke from fires and releases from power plants and other industrial facilities contain particulate matter.
Health Impacts of Particle Pollution
Respirable particulate matter- PM 10 and PM 2.5 is known to cause significant health problems and can lead to death. Numerous studies have linked particle pollution and the following health problems:
- premature death in people with heart or lung disease
- nonfatal heart attacks
- irregular heartbeat
- aggravated asthma
- decreased lung function
- increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.
Monitoring Air Quality
Staying informed on the air quality in your area can help you stay healthy and avoid peak air pollution events. In the United States, the EPA set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for several notable air pollutants including PM 2.5 and PM 10.
The EPA uses the Air Quality Index (AQI) to communicate the daily air quality across the country. The AQI uses color-coded categories and provides information that tells you about air quality for each category by zip code. Additionally, it provides information on which groups of people may be affected and how to reduce your exposure to air pollution. To find out the air quality in your area, go to https://www.airnow.gov/.
What You Can Do
Stay informed and stay safe. If air quality is poor in your area:
- spend less time outside
- wear a mask when outdoors
- take steps to seal your windows and doors
If you’re concerned that your air quality is being impacted by industrial emissions, report an environmental emergency online through the National Response Center (NRC), or call the NRC at 1-800-424-8802 or 1-202-267-2675 or report an environmental violation here. Additional reporting options depending on the nature of the release may be available.
If your community is or has been impacted by an industrial air polluter, we may be able to help. Contact our office for a free consultation at 504-593-9600.