Overall, air quality in Washington has greatly improved since 1991 when the Legislature expanded statewide air quality protection. In the mid-1990s, 13 areas of Washington did not meet national health-based air quality standards for six chemicals known as "criteria" pollutants. More than three million people lived within these areas and were exposed to high pollution levels. By 2005, thanks to federal, state, and local efforts, all 13 of those areas have met federal air quality standards.
Measuring air pollution
Ecology and local clean air agencies maintain a sophisticated network of more than 60 air monitors throughout the state. We conduct studies and collect data to assess sources of pollution. To see how your community is doing, you can view:
Reducing health and environmental threats from air pollution
Over the past several years, hundreds of scientific studies have been conducted on the health effects of air pollution. These studies consistently show that air pollution, mainly fine particle pollution and ozone pollution, is more dangerous to human health than previously thought. Exposure to levels of pollution well below EPA's existing national air quality standards can result in a range of diseases and, in some cases, premature death.
Air pollution from transportation and smoke
We're working to reduce air pollution that has harmful health effects. Smoke in Washington comes from heating homes with wood, agricultural burning, and wildfires. These studies explain what we're doing in these arenas:
Reducing air pollution from industrial and commercial sources
We issue permits to new and existing industrial and commercial facilities that emit significant levels of air pollution. Permit programs mandated either by federal or state clean air laws are designed to be self-supporting through fees. We provide technical assistance, permit application and processing guidance, interpretation of rules, pre-application assistance, and permit review. Permits are intended to ensure all federal and state laws are met, and that public health, air quality, and the environment are protected. Our permits include:
Reduce climate change impacts
Carbon pollution is the primary cause of climate change. State law sets carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for Washington. We are required to develop strategies to adapt to climate changes that are projected and already underway. In addition to collecting and analyzing data to understand where greenhouse gases are coming from, we are also working to reduce these harmful pollutants. Our strategies include: