Increase Font Size

A- A A+

Health Care

High Pollution Advisories

What is a High Pollution Advisory?

A High Pollution Advisory is a public warning from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) that the outside air in a particular part of the state is expected to contain a pollutant or multiple pollutants in an amount exceeding federal health standards.

The ADEQ was established in 1987 under the Environmental Quality Act of 1986. It is a cabinet-level agency comprised of three environmental programs: Air Quality, Water Quality, and Waste. Its core functions are planning, permitting, compliance management, monitoring, assessment, cleanups, and outreach.

What pollutants in the air may result in a High Pollution Advisory?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state and local governments monitor the outside air for six main pollutants:

  • ground-level ozone
  • particulate matter
  • carbon monoxide
  • lead
  • sulfur dioxide
  • nitrogen dioxide

The ADEQ issues a High Pollution Advisory for a particular part of the state when the level of one or more of these six main pollutants is expected to exceed the federal health standard for that/those pollutant(s).

Which pollutants most often result in High Pollution Advisories in Metro Phoenix?

The ADEQ issues High Pollution Advisories from time to time in every county in Arizona. The pollutants which most often lead to the issuing of a High Pollution Advisory in Maricopa County are ground-level ozone and particulate matter.

Ground-level ozone

According to the EPA, ground-level ozone is created through chemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.

The major sources of NOx and VOC are emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, refineries, chemical plants, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents.

Particulate matter

According to the EPA, particulate matter (PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets.

Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, and smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye, while other particulars are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

Particulate matter falls into two main categories:

  • PM10: inhalable particles with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers or smaller
  • PM2.5: fine inhalable particles with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers or smaller (or almost 30 times finer than the average human hair)

The major direct sources of particulate matter are construction sites, unpaved roads, agricultural operations, smokestacks, and fires. The major indirect sources of particulate matter are automobiles, power plants, and other industries whose emissions include chemicals containing nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) which react and combine in the atmosphere. 

Why does the ADEQ issue High Pollution Advisories?

The ADEQ issues High Pollution Advisories both (1) in order to encourage local residents and businesses to conduct themselves in ways that improve regional and state-wide air quality and (2) in order to warn those who may be especially vulnerable to the ill-effects of poor air quality – such as people with health conditions – that they may wish to remain indoors or at least limit their outdoor activities so that their health will not be further compromised.

How may residents and businesses help improve air quality?

On days on which the ADEQ issues a High Pollution Advisory, local residents and businesses may help make the air somewhat healthier by:

  • driving as little as possible
  • limiting vehicle idling (e.g. outside schools or in drive-thru lines)
  • refueling gasoline-powered vehicles after dark
  • carpooling or using public transit
  • avoiding or limiting the burning of wood and other material in fireplaces and chimneys
  • avoiding or limiting the use of law mowers, leaf blowers, and other gasoline-powered equipment

Under the ADEQ’s Mowing Down Pollution Program, residents of Maricopa County may apply to receive a $150 voucher toward the purchase of a new electric or battery-powered lawn mower in exchange for recycling a gasoline-powered lawn mower.

What are some of the health effects of poor air quality?

Ground-level ozone

Individuals with asthma, children, older adults, people who are active outdoors (especially outdoor workers), and people with reduced intake of certain nutrients (such as vitamins C and E) are most vulnerable to the ill-effects of ground-level ozone.

According to the EPA, ground-level ozone can contribute to the following health problems:

  • shortness of breath
  • headache
  • nausea
  • throat irritation and coughing
  • inflamed or damaged airways
  • worsened bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma
  • decreased lung function
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Particulate matter

Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Microscopic particles can get deep into a person’s lungs and even into a person’s bloodstream.

According to the EPA, particulate matter can contribute to the following health problems:

  • respiratory difficulties such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing
  • decreased lung function
  • irregular heartbeat
  • nonfatal heart attacks
  • premature death in individuals with heart or lung disease

Individuals with heart or lung disease, children, and older adults are most vulnerable to the ill-effects of particulate matter.

How may vulnerable individuals reduce their exposure to polluted air?

On days on which the ADEQ issues a High Pollution Advisory, it is advised that individuals with pre-existing health conditions as well as those with young children and older adults consider altering their usual outdoor activities in order to reduce their potential exposure to the ill-effects of ground-level ozone, particulate matter, and other pollutants. Suggested changes include:

  • spending limited or less time outdoors
  • engaging in only light or moderate outdoor activities
  • engaging in outdoor activities only after sunset

How do the EPA and state and local governments combat air pollution?

Under the federal Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to maintain national ambient air quality standards for the six most common and widespread pollutants (ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide) and states are required to adopt and enforce plans to meet those national air quality standards. Needless to say, those standards are not always met.

Sources and further reading

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality – “About Us”: http://www.azdeq.gov/AboutUs

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality – “Air Quality Forecasting”: http://azdeq.gov/air-forecasting

Arizona State Senate – “Issue Brief: The Clean Air Act”: https://www.azleg.gov/briefs/senate//the%20clean%20air%20act.pdf

Maricopa County – “Air Quality Department”: https://www.maricopa.gov/1244/Air-Quality

 United States Environmental Protection Agency – “Air Topics”: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-topics/air-topics

Valley Metro – “High Pollution Advisory”: https://www.valleymetro.org/high-pollution-advisory

Topics

Did you learn something? - 0 votes
00

%

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

Search

feedback