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Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Arizona's Official Website
Arizona Children's Environmental Health Program: Air

Air quality in the United States became a problem with increasing industrialization and as more people moved into cities. Early in the twentieth century there were no regulations controlling pollutants emitted into the air. Many laws and regulations have been enacted to protect people and the environment from air pollution. These rules and regulations have resulted in dramatic improvements in air quality within Arizona and nationwide. These laws continue to be important as science reveals with more detail and precision how air pollution damages public health and the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is air pollution?

Air pollution can be a single pollutant or a combination of different pollutants, such as:

Air pollution is caused when any of these contaminants get into the air from natural sources (like dust storms or wildfires) or man-made sources (like cars and trucks, power plants, industrial facilities, or construction activity). Air pollution can impact human health. Reduction in visibility from haze occurs in cities and national parks and wilderness areas.

Is air pollution worse for children than adults?

Children are at greater risk from air pollution than adults for several reasons. One reason is because children are smaller and breathe more often and faster (mp3), which means they take in more air in proportion to their body weight than adults, especially when they are playing. Since they are shorter, children are closer to the ground where they can be exposed to dust stirred up from the soil as well as other low-lying pollutants.

Can air pollution cause breathing problems?

Air pollutants have been associated with increases in respiratory-related problems and diseases in children, including reduction of lung function and increased severity or frequency of asthma attacks. Air pollutants have been associated with a number of other adverse health effects, including cancers and heart disease.

What about smoke from fires?

There are many sources of smoke. Smoke can come from a building or car fires or forest fires. Fires can also be started on purpose to remove weeds from irrigation ditch-banks or restore the health of forests and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Forest management burning, also called prescribed burning, and open burning are closely regulated by ADEQ and local agencies (e.g., county air pollution control and fire departments) to minimize the amount of smoke that impacts people. Regardless of the source of smoke, children and other sensitive people (e.g., asthmatics and people with heart disease) should avoid exposure to smoke whenever it is possible.

Why is it so dusty sometimes?

Strong winds can pick up dust and suspend the particles in the air where it can become a health and safety issue. While these conditions are not controllable, care should be taken to limit exposure to dust from high wind events. Other sources of dust include unpaved roads, vacant lots, trackout onto paved roads, disturbed areas, construction sites, mines, sand and gravel operations, and agricultural fields. With the exception of extremely windy conditions, dust is controllable. Please report excess dust to ADEQ or your local air pollution control agency .

How do I know the air is bad?

Sometimes the amount of ozone or particulate pollution can violate federal standards. ADEQ reviews the air quality data and weather forecasts to prepare pollution forecasts Sunday - Friday. When air pollution levels are forecast to approach or go higher than federal health standards, ADEQ issues health watches and high pollution advisories informing the public that the air quality is reaching unhealthy levels. You can receive ADEQ's Daily Air Quality Forecast via email and text message.

What is being done about air pollution?

ADEQ is involved with several programs to reduce the amount of pollution that can directly impact children.

  • School Bus Idling Reduction Program:
    This campaign began in 2004 as a pilot program at several school districts in Arizona. The purpose of the program is to reduce children's exposure to diesel emissions from buses idling near schools. ADEQ has worked with school districts involved in the pilot program to draft a bus idling policy. ADEQ is presenting the policy to other school districts for consideration and offering technical assistance to districts that request it.

  • Anti-Idle Campaign:
    Web-based tool kit available for schools, parents and community groups. The purpose of the program is to reduce children's exposure to vehicle emissions near schools and throughout Arizona.

  • School Bus Retrofit:
    The retrofit program provides grants for eligible schools purchase and retrofit buses with ultra low sulfur particulate diesel filters. The purpose of the school bus retrofit program is to protect children from the exhaust emitted from unfiltered diesel fueled buses. Eight school districts in Arizona are participating in the program.

  • Alternative Fuel Buses:
    The ADEQ Office of Border Environmental Protection (OBEP) will be implementing alternative fuel project with the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District. Biodiesel is a renewable source of fuel made from vegetable oils, soy oils, animal fats, recycled cooking grease, or algae. The school district has installed a 10,000 gallon tank for the storage of biodiesel and intends to begin using the fuel at the start of the 2008 - 2009 school year.

What can I do about air pollution?

See Also:

  • Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Arizona Comprehensive Asthma Control Plan
  • Childhood Lead Poisoning
  • Indoor Air Quality Program
  • Mold Information Sheet
  • U.S. EPA Air Now
  • Return to Arizona Children's Environmental Health Program Home Page