4.1 Air Quality

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) monitors air quality through a system of 34 air monitoring stations located throughout the state. Under the Federal Clean Air Act, the state is required to implement the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six different criteria pollutants determined to be harmful to public health and the environment. The EPA sets safe levels for these six pollutants. They are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particle pollution, and sulfur dioxide. Exposure to higher concentrations of these pollutants can cause respiratory illness, reduce lung function, and aggravate lung diseases and asthma.

Am I in a Sensitive Group?

You should pay close attention to air quality levels if you are an older adult, have children in your home, or if you or a family member have lung or heart disease.

Ozone and particle pollution can be dangerous to human health. Particulates or particle pollution are microscopic mixtures that are in the air. This type of pollution can be made up of combinations of different solid and liquid substances including acids, metals, organic chemicals, soil, pollen and other allergens. Particle pollution can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and even cause death in those with heart and lung disease. Ozone is a colorless gas that occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere and helps to shield the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, when it is at ground level, formed as a result of chemical interactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), it poses a threat to humans. The chemicals that form ozone are released from emissions of engines in cars, lawn equipment, and industry, and when conditions are right – usually during hot, stagnant days during the summer – dangerous amounts of ground-level ozone can build up.

Air pollution also can harm the environment. Air pollutants can form acid rain, which can damage crops, trees, wildlife, and water bodies. Although acid rain looks and feels just like normal rain, it forms fine nitrate and sulfate particles which can enter the lungs and cause or make worse illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis. The EPA Acid Rain Program seeks to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from the atmosphere, mainly through imposing reductions in carbon emissions from electric power plants that burn fossil fuels, like coal, to produce electricity.

Stay Informed!

LDEQ Air Monitoring Data: http://airquality.deq.louisiana.gov

EnviroFlash (email updates available): http://www.enviroflash.info

EPA AIRNow (iPhone and Android App available): https://www.airnow.gov

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Chapter 4: Your Air

The Louisiana Citizens’ Guide To Environmental Engagement


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4.2 Toxic Air Pollutants