Air Quality Basics
There are many types and sources of air pollution. The US EPA defines outdoor air pollution as six criteria pollutants commonly found all over the country and 187 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) that are more local in their impact. The criteria pollutants (particle matter, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead) are the primary determinants of local and national air quality – implicated in the formation of smog, acid rain and in direct health and environmental effects. A large fraction of criteria pollution comes from all types of combustion processes, while smaller amounts come from industrial, commercial and individual activities. HAPs are individual chemicals that in the air are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects.
MnTAP focuses our work on reducing the use of some HAPs, some VOCs, and with reducting greenhouse gases directly released by industrial processes or indirectly as the result of energy use by industrial processes. MNTAP does not attempt to provide assistance on reducing air emissions from combustion processes or from personal use of commercially available products.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Minnesota is currently in compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS), but compliance does not mean our air is clean and hazard free. The NAAQS for ozone is considered for revision every five years, and the EPA recently proposed lowering the standard to make the country’s air safer.