How we protect the air
We monitor the air in many areas of Washington. Monitors track air quality to make sure areas meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Our atmospheric scientists also monitor weather conditions in order to identify potential dangerous and unhealthy dust storms. By doing this, we are able to provide advanced warning to those in affected areas.
A State Implementation Plan (SIP) describes how the state implements, maintains, and enforces National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The SIP is a collection of documents that is in constant development. Washington’s SIP has been developed in multiple phases over more than 30 years.
Washington’s SIP contains:
- Rules adopted into the SIP.
- Plans for implementing new or revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- Plans for attaining and maintaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- State air quality programs.
If you've looked outside and been disappointed to see an ugly brown or pinkish haze ruining the view, you are likely seeing regional haze. Regional haze is air pollution caused when tiny particles in the air absorb and scatter sunlight, reducing the clarity and color of the air. We're working to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas.
Exceptional events — like wildfires, dust storms, earthquakes, or volcanoes — can affect air quality, but can’t be controlled to maintain national air quality standards.
In 2017, Washington was smothered by smoke from wildfires burning both in the state and across the west. Although all of Washington suffered from poor air quality, the smoke was especially thick in Kennewick and Yakima on Sept. 5, 6, and 7. EPA allowed us to remove air monitoring data collected during this "exceptional event" when we decided that Kennewick and Yakima met national air quality standards for fine particles (PM10). Find out more in Ecology’s report documenting these “exceptional events.”
Dust storms are of concern mainly in Central and Eastern Washington. They usually happen in the summer and fall, but can occur any time of the year. Construction and agricultural dust contribute to dust storms when massive amounts of soil and dust are lifted into the air. This dust can harm your health and safety by affecting your breathing and limiting your visibility when driving.