The American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report gives southern Nevada an 'F' in air quality.
Clark County's Air Quality
12% decrease in ozone since 2007
We disagree and here's why:
- The American Lung Association uses the same data we submit to the Environmental Protection Agency, but employ an arbitrary grading scale that doesn't add up.
- The American Lung Association acknowledges it applies a different standard than the EPA's health-based standards to which we adhere. By the EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), Clark County's air quality continues to be good.
- Take the ALA's analysis of ozone in Clark County, for example.
- Over three years—1,095 days—we observed 72 exceedance days for ozone. The American Lung Association is giving us a failing grade, despite having 'moderate' or better ozone air quality for 1,023 days out of 1,095.
- If this were a test, we would've scored 93.4 percent.
- Eight exceedance days or more over three years—99.2 percent—is considered failing by the ALA.
A Couple More Important Points
- Three of the five hottest years on record are represented in the ALA's report (2016 – 2018).
- Wildfires burned throughout the western United States in 2017 and 2018, influencing air quality in the Las Vegas Valley.
How Much Did Wildfires Influence Air Quality?
- In 2018, Clark County experienced 35 exceedance days for ozone.
- In 2019, where there were no wildfires sending smoke into Clark County, we only had three ozone exceedances.
Then How Would the EPA Rate Clark County's Air Quality?
- Clark County is in attainment for five of the six criteria pollutants as defined by the EPA. We meet all regulatory, health-based standards of the EPA and the Clean Air Act for those five pollutants (carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and lead).
- We are currently in 'marginal nonattainment'—the lowest classification—for ozone.
Clark County's Air Quality is…Good and Continues to Improve.
Despite the challenges with ozone, Air quality in Clark County is the best it's been in decades and continues to improve. For example:
- 12 percent reduction in ozone since 2007.
- Carbon monoxide has been reduced by 84 percent since 1982.
- Dust has been cut in half since 2001.
What is Ozone & Why is it a Challenge Here?
- Ground-level ozone is created by a chemical reaction when oxides of nitrogen (caused by engine combustion from vehicles and industrial emissions) combine with volatile organic compounds (anything that emits fumes, such as fuel, cleaning supplies and paints) and mix in the sun and heat. NOx + VOCs + sunlight = Ozone.
- Southern Nevada's geography, topography, climate and location make for a perfect oven to cook and trap ozone that flows into the region from other places.
- At the ground level, ozone is toxic to breathe.
- Clark County has more than 1.4 million vehicles on our roads. Vehicle emissions are a major producer of NOx, which contributes to ozone creation.
- In Clark County, ozone is at its peak during the summer months.
What Can Influence Ozone Creation?
- Smoke from wildfires, as we witnessed in 2017 and 2018.
- Transport of ozone from other places, such as southern California or Asia.
- Homegrown "ingredients," such as vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions.
How Does the Department of Environment & Sustainability Protect the Air We Share?
- As the county's air quality regulatory agency, we currently manage and inspect 1,078 active permitted facilities in Clark County, including industrial plants, factories, gas stations and many more.
- We issue, update and enforce all air permits and ensure all sources maintain full compliance with all conditions in their permits or be subject to notices of violations (NOVs) and financial penalties.
- For calendar year 2019, we issued 161 NOVs with adjudicated penalties levied at $524,511.
- We received more than 1,000 complaints in 2019 via our hotline (702-385-DUST), with 98 percent of them being resolved within 24 hours.
- We operate a comprehensive network of ambient air monitoring stations that goes beyond the basic EPA requirements to proactively identify potential areas that might experience air quality problems.
What Residents Can Do to Lower Ozone
- The way we operate and maintain our vehicles can help reduce ozone. Here are a few tips how individuals can help reduce ozone:
- Keep your car well maintained, including proper air pressure in tires.
- Map out errands and trips to ensure the most efficient routes.
- Take public transportation.
- Fill your gas tank after sunset.
- Use electric landscaping equipment instead of gas-powered.
If I See a Smoking Vehicle
Call the Nevada Dept. of Motor Vehicles Smog Spotter hotline at 844-END-SMOG (363-7664). Learn more about their program here.
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