Contrails not Chemtrails

Contrails, not Chemtrails.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's (ADEQ) mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment. Based upon all data presented in the paragraphs below and the department's understanding of the formation of contrails, ADEQ has not found any evidence that chemtrails exist. Furthermore, all the data ADEQ has gathered clearly supports that there are no elevated levels of metals or chemicals in the air, soil, and water of the State of Arizona that would support the existence of chemtrails.

If you've ever seen a jet fly across the sky, you may have noticed that it produces a thin white cloud behind it. These clouds are trails of condensation and are referred to as contrails. Contrails are composed primarily of water in the form of ice crystals and may remain visible for short periods of time if the humidity is low. The contrail may persist if the humidity is high. Newly formed particles will continue to grow in size by taking in water from the surrounding atmosphere. These resulting contrails can grow to several kilometers in width and 200 to 400 meters in height. Contrails may also appear to be grid-shaped. The grid-shaped contrails are the result of aircraft flying at east-west and north-south orientations designated at 2,000 foot increments of elevation. Other shapes formed are by the dispersion caused by horizontal and vertical wind shear. A more detailed description of how contrails are formed is presented in an EPA guidance document which can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

EPA Contrail Formation Guidance Document

ADEQ does not have authority to regulate aircraft engine emissions. Section 231 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish aircraft engine emissions standards for any air pollutant that could "reasonably be anticipated endanger public health and welfare." The CAA further dictates in Section 232 that the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for enforcing the standards established by EPA. DOT has delegated this enforcement responsibility to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA ensures compliance with these regulations by reviewing and approving certification test plans, procedures, test reports, and engine emissions certification levels. For more information on aircraft emissions or to access EPA's or FAA's aircraft regulations visit the aviation emissions Web site of EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality at or the FAA's environmental policy Web site at:

The Arizona State Legislature also can't regulate aircraft emissions by granting authority to ADEQ. Under Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, federal law is the "supreme law of the land." The Supremacy Clause, as it is known, means that federal law preempts state law. In the case of aircraft emissions, the State of Arizona does not have its own laws since the federal government controls the field of aviation regulation through the FAA. Federal preemption prohibits Arizona from creating any additional regulation.

Occasionally, ADEQ is contacted by members of the public who wonder if these contrails might contain harmful chemicals. They may have heard them described as chemtrails. ADEQ has reviewed data from soil, air and water samples and also has examined outside reports claiming evidence of high levels of barium and aluminum in air, soil, and ground water. Based upon the department's review of monitored samples tested by ADEQ, it has been determined that the current levels of aluminum and barium contained in the air, water, and soil are all within acceptable guidelines and have not varied significantly over the years. Additionally, purported evidence in reports showing the contrary are largely exaggerated and unverified as to authenticity and laboratory methods used.

One report widely circulated on the internet is called "The Phoenix Report" dated May 1, 2008. The Phoenix Report shows extremely high levels of aluminum and barium in the tested sample. ADEQ reviewed this report and found discrepancies and problems with the report which challenge its accuracy and/or authenticity.

The Phoenix Report

The Phoenix Report as seen in the above link provides unspecified monitoring locations, sampling methods, quality assurance procedures, and time (sampled over 28 days). Nor does it identify any source for the information. Additionally, it shows impossibly high levels of both aluminum and barium. The report shows aluminum at a level of 12.8 million parts per billion (ppb). Based upon the molecular weight of aluminum, we can convert this ppb value to a milligram per cubic meter value (mg/m3) which is 14,134. This value can be converted as grams per cubic meter (g/m3) which results in approximately 14. To illustrate how impossible this measured value of aluminum is, it is worth noting that the weight of an aluminum can is approximately 14 grams. To visualize a cubic meter of air, consider that a standard elevator has approximately 8 cubic meters of air inside - now picture 8 aluminum cans dispersed in it.

Dust Storm Approaching Phoenix
Figure 1 - Dust Storm Approaching the Phoenix Metro Area

Air quality monitoring data collected by ADEQ contradicts the Phoenix Report. The department collects air quality monitoring data at various locations in Maricopa County and throughout the state. A regulated pollutant which the department monitors is particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 microns (PM10). PM10 not only includes aluminum but it is also comprised of other metals and compounds. To again illustrate the impossibility of the Phoenix Report, the highest reading of PM10 ever recorded in Phoenix during one of our worst dust storms (an example of which can be seen in figure 1 below) was 6,348 ug/m3 (6.348 mg/m3), and as mentioned in the previous sentence this value includes aluminum, barium, and many other metals. This reading of PM10 as a worst case scenario is still 2,000 times less than what is shown in the Phoenix Report. Consequently, the Phoenix Report cannot be considered credible.

Additionally, ADEQ monitors finer particulates called PM2.5, which is particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns. The PM2.5data is further speciated to its individual components including metals. The following graph (click on link below) shows the 2013 data for various metals measured at one of Maricopa County's monitors called the Phoenix Supersite.

2013 Speciated Monitoring Data from Phoenix Supersite

The Supersite is located at 4530 N. 17th Ave. in Phoenix. The samples are collected and analyzed by a lab after they have sampled the air for a 24 hour period. The instrument used to record the sample runs every three days. Based upon the 2013 sampling data the highest reading for aluminum was 1.24 ug/m3. The highest reading for barium based on this graph is 0.3 ug/m3 .

The Arizona Ambient Air Quality Guidelines which were instituted by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), shows a health based guideline of 4 ug/m3 set for barium and 150 ug/m3 for aluminum. Based upon this data, the highest readings for these metals are well below the ADHS guidelines.

ADEQ also has analyzed soil samples for sites near the Kingman airport and at the Yucca Auxiliary Operating Base (AOB) in Mohave County. The samples, which can be viewed by clicking on the following link below show aluminum and barium levels for the Kingman sample to be 6,395 mg/kg and 74.79 mg/kg respectively.

Kingman Airport Soil Sample

Yucca AOB Soil Sample

For the Yucca AOB site the aluminum and barium samples are 5,977 mg/kg and 81.79 mg/kg respectively. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the typical soil ranges for aluminum are between 7,000 and 100,000 mg/kgsoil (0.7 to 10 percent). Likewise the typical ranges for barium are between 15 to 3,500 mg/kgsoil (0.0015 to 0.35 percent). To put these values in perspective the Arizona soil remediation levels (SRLs) are 76,000 mg/kg of soil for aluminum and 15,000 mg/kg of soil for barium. These remediation levels are listed in the Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) R18-7-710 which lists the SRLs for many elements and compounds. Based on these SRLs the sampled levels of aluminum and barium at the Kingman and Yucca sites are well below thresholds that would require any sort of soil remediation and within the typical ranges expected for soil.

ADEQ also routinely monitors surface water data across the state. Sampling data for sites near Sedona and Flagstaff are shown in the following link below:

Sedona and Flagstaff Area Water Samples

The water standard for drinking water is 2,000 ug/l (liter) for barium. Aluminum does not have a health standard but 50-200 ug/l is used as a secondary standard for color and sediments. The maximum barium concentration reported in these samples was recorded near Red Rock Crossing and measured at 500 ug/l, which is well below the water standard. Aluminum was not detected in these samples, meaning that the aluminum content in the water was below the level that is detectable. The non-detect level for aluminum is 500 ug/l.

If you have more questions regarding chemtrails or the information presented above, or would like to provide the department with any other additional information or data please feel free to contact us at the email and/or phone number listed below. Based upon department resource issues, ADEQ may not respond to all calls or emails, but will review and consider all comments received.

Email Contact:

Phone Contact: 602-771-4622