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Air Quality in Indiana

Air Quality in Indiana > Air Quality 101 > September 2013: The States View of Air 2013 September 2013: The States View of Air 2013

This is the fifteenth article in a series about air quality in general and how it applies to Indiana. This article will discuss an IDEM report entitled The States View of the Air 2013.

In an earlier article I described the American Lung Association’s (ALA) report, “The State of the Air,” and the limitations I see in the report. For the last two years I have prepared a report called “The States View of the Air.” My report starts with the same data as the ALA, but analyzes it differently.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the ALA base the air quality of an area on the worst monitored value seen in that area. I use the average of the maximum values and not the very worst value. This is more in line with what health researchers use.

Based upon the average values, my analysis shows that in the 2000 to 2002 time period, only 15.4 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas where air quality was better than the 8-hour ozone standard. Another 50.6 percent lived in areas where air quality did not meet the standard, and the remainder (34 percent) lived in areas where ozone levels were not being measured. Based upon data for 2009 to 2011, things improved significantly. By this time, 49.1 percent of the population lived in areas meeting the standard, 21.3 percent lived in areas that did not meet the standard, and 29.7 percent lived in areas where ozone was not being measured.

For the 2000 to 2002 period, 40 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas meeting the 24-hour PM-2.5 (fine particle) standard. Another 31.2 percent lived in areas that did not meet the standard, and the remainder (28.8 percent) lived in area where PM-2.5 was not measured. By the 2009 to 2011 period, 65.1 percent of the population lived in areas where the 24-hour PM-2.5 standard was met. Only 1.5 percent of the people lived in areas above, or not meeting, the standard. Another 33.4 percent lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured.

In the 2000 to 2002 period, 46.3 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. Another 21.1 percent lived in areas not meeting the standard, and the remainder (28.8 percent) lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured. By 2009 to 2011, 66.5 percent of the population lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. Only 0.1 percent of the population lived in areas not meeting the annual standard. Another 33.4 percent of the population lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not measured.

Data for Indiana show a similar improvement. In the 2000 to 2002 period, only 3.5 percent of Hoosiers lived in counties where air quality was better than the 8-hour ozone standard. Another 59.1 percent lived in counties that did not meet the standard, and the remainder (37.3 percent) lived in counties where ozone was not being measured. During the 2009 to 2011 period, 61.5 percent of Hoosiers lived in counties meeting the ozone standard. No Hoosiers lived in counties that did not meet the ozone standard: 38.6 percent lived in counties that did not have monitors to measure ozone.

For the 2000 to 2002 period, 22.6 percent of Hoosiers lived in counties meeting the 24-hour PM-2.5 standard. Another 33.9 percent lived in areas that did not meet the standard, and the remainder (43.4 percent) lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not measured. By the 2009 to 2011 period, 56.5 percent of the population lived in areas where the 24-hour PM-2.5 standard was met. No Hoosiers lived in areas above the standard: 43.5 percent lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being monitored.

In the 2000 to 2002 period, 19.6 percent of Hoosiers lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. Another 37 percent lived in areas not meeting the standard, and the remainder (43.4 percent) lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured. By the 2009 to 2011 period, 56.5 percent of Hoosiers lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. No Hoosiers lived in areas not meeting the annual standard: 43.5 percent of Hoosiers lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured.

The important point is that the air quality is better than it has been portrayed in some reports. When U.S. EPA or ALA provides statistics on the number of people living in counties that do not meet the standards, many of those people are not exposed to levels above the standard. This is especially evident in Los Angeles. While we think of the ozone levels there as extremely bad, the average value for 2009 to 2011 is 0.078 parts per million (ppm). The standard is 0.075 ppm, so many people are breathing air quality that actually meets the standard. There are still areas of the country that have problems meeting the ozone standard and a few that are not meeting the PM-2.5 standard.

Each time U.S. EPA tightens a standard, the number of people exposed to air that doesn’t meet it will increase until further improvements are made. All measured air in Indiana met all health standards in 2009, but we have more work to do today because U.S. EPA is tightening the standards. Most states, including Indiana, have areas that will not immediately meet the new standards. The fact is that significant progress has been made in reducing ozone and fine particles over this time period, and our air quality is expected to become even healthier. It is very concerning that some reports we have seen do not provide accurate information about how our air quality really measures up in comparison to nationally-accepted, current federal air health standards.

IDEM is working to provide accurate, factual information to the public, as well as organizations including ALA and the news media. The States View of the Air 2013 [PDF] report can be found on the IDEM Air Quality in Indiana website.

Comments can be sent to kbaugues at idem.IN.gov.

Keith Baugues