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EPA Designates 31 Nonattainment Areas in the US for PM2.5

Nonattainment areas for PM2.5. Click to enlarge.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is designating 31 areas across the country as not meeting the agency’s daily standards for fine particle air pollution (PM 2.5), or particulate matter.

Particulate matter, which is emitted by power plants, factories and motor vehicles, can cause a number of serious health problems including aggravated asthma, increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, heart attacks and premature death. These areas, made up of 120 full or partial counties, were designated as “nonattainment” because their 2006 to 2008 air quality monitoring data showed that they did not meet the agency’s health-based standards.

In December 2008, after closely reviewing recommendations from states and tribes along with public comments, EPA identified attainment and nonattainment areas based on air quality monitoring data from 2005 through 2007. The December 2008 designations were never published in the Federal Register and have been under review. Because the 2008 air quality data is the most recent, EPA used this data to make final designations.

Using the 2006 to 2008 data, 91 US counties that were identified as nonattainment in December 2008 are now meeting the standards. The new data also showed that four new counties in three states are violating the daily PM 2.5 standards, the annual PM 2.5 standards, or both. EPA will work with these four counties to evaluate air monitoring data and other factors to make final designations by early 2010.

Nonattainment areas include counties with monitors showing violations of the standards and the nearby areas that also contribute to that violation. Affected states and tribes will be required to take steps to reduce the pollution that forms fine particles. The majority of US counties and tribal lands are meeting these standards, but will need to continue working to maintain clean air.

In 2006, EPA strengthened the 24-hour fine particle standards from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Nationwide, monitored levels of fine particle pollution fell 19% from 2000 to 2008. Fine particles can either be emitted directly from power plants, factories, and motor vehicles, particularly diesel trucks and buses, or they can form in the atmosphere from reactions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.




Forest fires and wood burning fire places/stoves are also major sources of fine particles pollution in many areas.

An old fashion open type fire place can create more fine particles in one hour than a large diesel truck in 18 000 miles but they remain unchecked in most places. People that use those fire places many hours a day during winter months can create more fine particles pollution than 1000 large trucks. Multiplied by 100 000 to 500,000 in some large cities and you get very unhealthy winter smogs.


If you notice the map, the central valley of California is red. They get a lot of the surrounding areas pollution and the lay of the land deposits lots of it there. This is a mostly agricultural region that is not densely populated that can have some real bad air days.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties get Orange County and L.A. smog blown into them. If it were just the cars in those counties, it would not be as bad. I do not think the people of the high polluting counties care, as long as it goes somewhere else.


Yes, most of the Alberta's tar sands air pollution quickly blows south of the border. Albertans don't notice most of it.

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