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Archived: Population living where air quality meets federal standards

Why is this a priority?

Air pollution harms public health and the environment, negatively impacting the economy and our citizens' quality of life.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency establishes national air quality standards for six common, widespread and harmful pollutants in outdoor air.

A violation of these federal standards exposes people to levels of pollution that can cause disease, increase medical costs, and impose substantial economic consequences on communities, including costs to clean up the pollution and prevent future recurrences.

How are we doing?

In the early 1990's, thirteen areas in the state violated national air quality standards, affecting more than 50% of the state's population. By 2005, those areas had been cleaned up, resulting in 100% of the population living in areas that meet federal standards.

In 2009, an area in and around Tacoma/Pierce County violated the federal standard for fine particle pollution exposing approximately 8% of the state's population to harmful levels of that pollutant.

Analysis of local air pollutant emissions in Tacoma/Pierce County determined that the pollution from wood-burning home heating devices is the principal cause of high fine particle pollution levels in the affected area.

After significant efforts to clean the air and reduce wood smoke in Tacoma/Pierce County, the area came back into compliance with the standard in February 2015.

Currently, 100% of the state’s population is living in areas that meet federal standards.

What are we working on?

Washington’s Department of Ecology and seven local clean air authorities have a number of initiatives underway in high-risk and vulnerable communities to reduce pollution levels before they violate national air quality standards.· Fifteen communities in Washington are at risk of violating the federal standard for fine particle pollution. Current initiatives include: 1.) instituting burn bans prior to pollution levels exceeding standards; and, 2.) replacing older, more-polluting wood stoves with cleaner home-heating alternatives.

EPA proposed to strengthen the federal standard for ozone in December 2014, and plans to issue final ozone standard in October 2015. The Puget Sound and Tri-Cities regions are at risk of violating a stronger federal standard for ozone.

Ecology is working with local clean air authorities to identify potential strategies to prevent a future violation.

How can you help?

Citizens can help reduce fine particle pollution in their communities by:

Learning about the health effects of fine particle pollution ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9A71m7-ReQs&feature=plcp)

Following the instructions for properly using your wood-burning device and only burning dry, well-seasoned fuel wood. (Watch this helpful video at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/indoor_woodsmoke/wood_heat_at_home.wmv )

Complying with burn bans as soon as they are issued. Learn more or sign up for burn ban notifications at ( http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/Burn_Ban.htm )

Upgrading older uncertified wood-burning devices to cleaner-burning alternative heat sources. (Contact your local clean air agency or the Department of Ecology: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/local.html )

Citizens can help reduce ozone pollution in their communities by:

Learning about the health effects of ozone pollution http://youtu.be/927IBT3WiXs

Reduce vehicle trips by carpooling, using transit options, efficiently planning your errands, walking and biking.

If shopping for a new vehicle, buy the most fuel-efficient and lowest pollution car/truck that meets your needs.

Maintain your car to manufacturer specifications, and have it tested if you live in one of Washington's Emission Check areas:http://www.emissiontestwa.com/e/faq.aspx#1

Avoid mowing your lawn and using other gasoline-powered landscape equipment on very hot days.