We monitor air and track emissions from industrial sources to ensure sulfur dioxide levels meet health-based air quality standards.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) gets into the air when fuel that contains sulfur is burned. Key sources in Washington include:
Although sulfur dioxide levels in Washington's air have never violated national standards, past levels would violate today's more stringent standards. Thanks to tighter controls on industrial facilities and cleaner fuels, Washington's sulfur dioxide levels have declined.
To ensure air continues to meet today's standard, we monitor sulfur dioxide at six locations along with local clean air agencies. Locations include:
In addition to monitoring, we use air dispersion modeling to determine if emissions from TransAlta power plant in Centralia violate air quality standards. TransAlta has emitted high levels of air pollution in the past.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself from sulfur dioxide. You can:
Trees and plants can be harmed by sulfur dioxide in high concentrations. It can contribute to acid rain that harms sensitive ecosystems. When it reacts with fine particles in the air it reduces visibility, causing a haze.
SO2 irritates the respiratory system and causes symptoms in people with asthma. Children, older adults, and people with asthma are at increased risk for health effects after sulfur dioxide exposure.
Sulfur dioxide and other related compounds can also react in the atmosphere to form sulfate containing fine particles. These fine particles are also harmful to health.