The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measures six key metrics regarding air pollutants, and releases hourly reports on the current air status across the nation. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Division of Air Pollution Control (DAPC) also uses the metrics set by the EPA to measure Ohio’s air quality and releases regular updates throughout the day from their 17 monitoring stations across Ohio. DPAC ensures compliance with the federal Clean Air Act as part of its mission to attain and maintain air quality at a level that protects the environment and public health.
The six pollutants measured by the EPA and the Ohio EPA Division of Air Pollution Control are: ground-level ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution, is further broken down by diameter. Coarse particulate matter (PM10) has a diameter of 2.5 to 10 micrometers, and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. Each pollutant can affect health, climate change, industry, and the environment in various ways.
Ground-level ozone, or tropospheric ozone, is different than the “good” ozone that is in the stratosphere of the Earth. While the stratospheric ozone layer protects the planet from the sun, the “bad” ground-level ozone can trigger a multitude of health problems. The ozone layer in our atmosphere forms naturally, but the ground-level ozone is produced by chemical reactions between pollutants and sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities, power plants, and vehicles are major sources of the pollutants that create ground-level ozone. Breathing ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, airway inflammation, and worsen lung diseases. It also affects forests, parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and damages crops during the growing season.
Particulate Matter/Particle Pollution
Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution, is defined as “the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in the air, many of which are hazardous.” Particles larger than 10 micrometers in diameter, like sand, aren’t regulated by the EPA. Particles smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter (less than the width of a human hair) pose the greatest health threat, and are closely monitored by the EPA. Coarse particles are small enough to enter the lungs, and fine particles are sometimes so small, they can enter the bloodstream. Some particulate matter is large enough to see with the naked eye, such as dust or pollen, but most require an electron microscope to clearly see. Most particulate matter forms as a result of pollutants from power plants, industries, and vehicles interacting with one another, and some come from easily identifiable sources such as fires, unpaved roads, and construction sites. The environmental impact of particulate matter can change the pH level of waters and soils, damage sensitive crops, contribute to acid rain, and cause the area to become hazy. The worrisome health effects include early death for people with heart or lung diseases, heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, airway irritation, difficulty breathing, and fetal development issues.
Most people are already familiar with carbon monoxide- an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that can lead to death if inhaled for too long. Carbon monoxide is released when something is burned, such as a fire or fossil fuels. Very high levels of carbon monoxide aren’t very likely outdoors, and it is more dangerous in enclosed spaces, such as using a kerosene heater to stay warm in winter or warming up a car inside an enclosed garage. When carbon monoxide levels are increased outside, people with lung and heart diseases are the most likely to feel the effects. Due to already having a reduced ability to get oxygenated blood to their organs, their hearts and lungs have to work even harder to get the oxygen needed.
Sulfur dioxide is produced when sulfur-containing fossil fuels such as coal and oil are burned, in addition to naturally-occuring sulfur springs. Major sources of sulfur dioxide pollution include power plants and industrial boilers, and the highest levels of sulfur dioxide pollution are usually around major cities, power plants, and industrial complexes. Sulfur dioxide can make breathing difficult for people with respiratory issues and contribute to the amount of particulate matter in the air. Sulfur dioxide can also damage vegetation, stunt plant growth, and cause acid rain.
Nitrogen Dioxide primarily enters the air by the burning of fuel, such as gasoline and kerosene. The most common sources of nitrogen dioxide are vehicles and power plants. Nitrogen dioxide can have chemical reactions with other pollutants in the air, leading to ground-level ozone and increased particulate matter.
Air pollution can affect not only the health and wellness of our current world, but also the world of the future. Each pollutant affects our environment in different ways, and some combine to cause further problems. The first step to reducing the impact of air pollution is to understand what it is and what we can do about it.
With over 100 aggregation programs in place and a record of customer satisfaction, Trebel puts the power in the people’s hands. With an aggregation program, local governments have the choice of where their energy is sourced, including green energy to lower the impact of air pollution. Trebel has developed relationships with multiple suppliers that can offer 100% renewable energy (or a percentage of renewable energy) to offset the carbon footprint of the community, and has the renewable energy expertise to help homes, businesses, and communities lead a greener future.