WINDSOR HEIGHTS – The Iowa DNR joins the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Linn and Polk counties in designating April 29 through May 3 as Air Quality Awareness Week.
Iowa’s air generally measures within good to acceptable quality, although sometimes fine particles (referred to as Particulate Matter 2.5) increase close to the ground where people breathe. Dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets are examples of fine particles that can impact lungs and the ability to breathe, particularly in sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include children, elderly, those with asthma and compromised lung and heart conditions, and outdoor athletes and workers that heavily exert their lungs.
Sometimes stagnant air masses do not allow fine particles emitted from vehicle traffic and industry to disperse. If that happens, sensitive populations should limit prolonged outdoor exertion until the weather cleans away the fine particles.
People, livestock and pets should stay upwind of recreational fires, legal landscape waste fires or prescribed burns. When burning, be considerate of neighbors who may be among sensitive groups.
Iowa’s Ozone Season
April is the beginning of Iowa’s ozone season, which lasts through Oct. 31. Ozone concentrations can reach unhealthy levels when the weather is hot and sunny with relatively light winds. Ozone is formed by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds, often referred to as VOCs, and oxides of nitrogen in the presence of heat and sunlight. Sources of these substances include:
- automobiles, trucks and buses;
- large industry and fuel combustion sources such as utilities;
- small industry such as gas stations and print shops;
- consumer products such as oil-based paints and cleaning materials; and
- emissions from aircraft, locomotives and construction equipment.
When ozone levels rise, citizens are asked to reduce using automobiles for non-essential errands, put off filling gas tanks and mowing lawns with gasoline engines until late evening when temperatures are cooler and avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
The Iowa DNR and Linn and Polk counties monitor current air quality in Iowa. Monitoring information can be accessed at www.iowacleanair.gov
Other EPA-regulated air pollutants are lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and hazardous air pollutants. Information about Iowa exceedances of some of these air pollutants to date, including ozone and fine particles, can be found at http://www.iowadnr.gov/InsideDNR/RegulatoryAir/MonitoringAmbientAir.aspx
The DNR is currently working with sources of lead pollution in Council Bluffs and sources of PM2.5 and sulfur dioxide emissions in Muscatine to improve air quality in those areas.
General information about air pollution and its impact on human health can be found at http://www.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/
. This link provides information on different air pollution topics for each day of Air Quality Awareness Week.