- Contact information
- For more information about news and media, contact:
- Bill Cosh
Director of Communications
Air Quality Advisories Media Kit
- An Air Quality Advisory means that air quality has become unhealthy, at least for individuals in sensitive groups.
- The DNR calls an Air Quality Advisory when pollutant levels exceed the revised EPA standards, when the Air Quality Index (AQI) becomes orange or unhealthy for sensitive individuals.
|Air Quality Index
|Levels of Health Concern||Colors|
|When the AQI
is in this range:
|...air quality conditions are:||...as symbolized
by this color:
|0 to 50||Good||Green|
|51 to 100||Moderate||Yellow|
|101 to 150||Unhealthy for
|151 to 200||Unhealthy||Red|
|201 to 300||Very Unhealthy||Purple|
|301 to 500||Hazardous||Maroon|
In Wisconsin, Air Quality Advisories are related to the levels of ozone and fine particle pollution in the air.
- Ozone (O3) is a colorless gas found both in the Earth's upper atmosphere and at ground level. Ozone can be good or bad, depending on where it is found.
- Ozone occurs naturally in the Earth's upper atmosphere, 10 to 30 miles above the Earth's surface, forming a layer that shields life on Earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Because of this protection, stratospheric ozone is sometimes called "good ozone."
- While stratospheric ozone protects us, at ground-level, where we inhale it, ozone is harmful to health. Ozone is created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of heat and sunlight.
- The highest ozone levels in Wisconsin typically occur from mid-May to mid-September, especially in hot hazy weather with southerly winds.
- On March 12, 2008, EPA announced that the 8-hour ozone standard had been lowered to 75 ppb from 85 ppb in response to better data about health impacts.
- Particle pollution is composed of solid particles or liquid droplets that are suspended in air.
- There are two size ranges for particle pollution that are a concern in Wisconsin: coarse particles (PM10) have a diameter of 10 micrometers or less, and fine particles (PM2.5) have a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less. For reference, the average human hair is 70 micrometers in diameter - 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.
- PM2.5 is more closely regulated than PM10 because of greater health concerns as they can imbed deeper in the lungs, even in the tiniest air sacs.
- In Wisconsin, PM2.5 levels typically peak in winter but concentrations can also be high in summer.
- In October 2006, EPA lowered the 24-hour PM2.5 standard to 35 micrograms per cubic meter (35 µg/m3) from 65 µg/m3.
- If a county is designated as a "nonattainment area" for ozone or fine particles, it means the county does not meet the federal standard.
- The DNR develops and implements plans for nonattainment areas that detail how the state will control emissions to meet federal standards.
Groups that are most sensitive to ozone and PM2.5 include:
- Active children who spend much of their time outdoors
- Active adults who spend much of their time outdoors
- People with asthma or other respiratory diseases
- People with heart disease (PM2.5 sensitivity only)
- Older adults (PM2.5 sensitivity only)
At high levels, everyone should be concerned about ozone and PM2.5 exposure affecting their respiratory health. Ozone and PM2.5 can affect human health in many ways:
- Irritate respiratory systems and cause coughing and difficulty breathing
- Reduce lung function
- Aggravate asthma
- Cause permanent lung damage
- Aggravate or cause chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis
- Reduce the immune system's ability to fight off bacterial infections in the respiratory system
- Irregular heartbeat (PM2.5 only)
- Nonfatal heart attacks (PM2.5 only)
- Premature death in people with heart or lung disease (PM2.5 only)
Environmental health impacts
- Ground level ozone and particle pollution are major components of smog, which reduces visibility in addition to affecting human health.
- Ground level ozone and particle pollution damage non-living things. Ozone affects rubber, textiles, and coatings like paint and dyes. Particle pollution can damage statues, monuments, and buildings made of stone and other materials.
- Ozone injures plant leaves and slows photosynthesis, the process by which plants make their food. Ozone damage leads to reduced plant growth and survival and increased susceptibility to diseases, pests, and drought. Leaf discoloration and spots are visible symptoms of severe ozone stress. Ozone impacts the production of agricultural crops and commercial timber and also diminishes the aesthetic value of natural and landscaped vegetation.
- Fine particle pollution is often acidic, causing acid rain and making lakes and streams acidic. Deposition of nitrogen-containing particles may change the nutrient balance in lakes and rivers, affecting the diversity of ecosystems or damaging forests or crops.
Ground level ozone is formed from nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds reacting in the presence of sunlight.
Particle pollution may be emitted directly into the atmosphere (from sources like forest fires and wood stoves) but it is more commonly created by reactions of other pollutants. Particle pollution building blocks, or precursor pollutants, include:
Engine exhaust, fossil fuel burning power plants, and emissions from industries (e.g. facilities with large boilers, foundries, plastic manufacturers, printers, paper mills, etc.) are major sources of both ozone and particle pollution. Gasoline vapors and chemical solvents are other sources of ozone. Agricultural operations and wood burning are additional sources of particle pollution. Wind can carry ozone and particle pollution hundreds of miles from its source, which is one reason why rural areas with little industry can have air quality problems.
The DNR Air Management program, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, uses a number of different air pollution control strategies to reduce emissions and improve air quality. Examples include requiring:
- Industrial facility permits
- Power plant pollution reduction systems
- Production of automobiles that meet national air emissions standards
- For ozone control in areas that do not meet the federal standards (nonattainment areas), reasonable available control technology (RACT)
RACT is a requirement of the federal Clean Air Act. In Wisconsin, RACT rules cover volatile organic compound (VOC) sources. In general, the rules are designed to limit VOC emissions associated with the use, storage and handling of these ozone-forming compounds. RACT rules also limit NOx emissions from major stationary combustion sources such as boilers, heat treating operations and engines.
- There are several state and federal pollution-control programs aimed at highway vehicles and off-road equipment to limit ozone. Regulations include motor vehicle emission standards, vehicle inspection and maintenance, and the required use of reformulated gasoline that contains less petroleum, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, low sulfur gasoline, and gasoline vapor-recovery programs.
- An attainment demonstration is a plan that contains the necessary analyses and control program to demonstrate that enough pollutants will be removed in an area with an air quality problem (nonattainment area) to attain air quality standards in the requisite time period.
- Governments, businesses and partner organizations have developed local and regional voluntary programs to reduce air pollution.
Voluntary programs and public education campaigns are also important tools for reducing air emissions.
Nonattainment areas are counties that have recorded pollutant levels exceeding federal air quality standards.
Controls on power plants, industrial processes, automobiles and trucks, small engines, and wood burners all help reduce fine particle pollution and improve air quality. Federal rules deal with the problem of pollutants that cross state boundaries and Wisconsin cooperates with other Midwest states to develop regional controls. In addition, Wisconsin's new mercury/multi-pollutant emission reduction rule will help to reduce fine particle pollution from power plants.
- DNR meteorologists notify the National Weather Service of Air Quality Advisories and then the National Weather Service's Weather Wire notifies local media.
- Local media and other interested parties receive email notifications when the DNR issues an air quality advisory.
- The latest information is posted on the air quality notice page and the Air Monitoring Network application.
- The Daily Air Quality Hotline hosts recordings of the current Air Quality Index for counties with an air monitor: 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR). If the county you are interested in does not have an air monitor, you might want to check nearby counties since air quality problems are often regional.
Reduce exposure to air pollutants during Air Quality Advisories (when pollutant concentrations are above the unhealthy level for at least sensitive groups).
- Take it easy.
- Reduce strenuous outdoor activity.
- Be aware that ozone and particle pollution can aggravate cardiac and lung conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and heart disease. Sensitive groups should pay extra attention to symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns.
Help reduce air pollution
- Reduce driving whenever possible.
- Do not leave vehicle engines idling.
- Refuel in the evening and keep gas caps tight.
- Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.
- Do not burn wood outdoors.
- Conserve electricity.
Individuals can help by combining errands into one trip, using alternate transportation, reducing the use of small engine equipment (for example, gasoline lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed wackers) and choosing non-solvent based consumer products.
- Call the DNR's Air Quality Index Hotline at 1-866-DAILY AIR (1-866-324-5924) for daily air quality readings for selected counties. If the county you are interested in does not have an air monitor, you might want to check nearby counties since air quality problems are often regional.
- View real-time air quality monitoring data.
- Sign up for air program email updates.
- More information about health effects of air pollutants.
- Learn how to "Do a Little and Save a Lot."
Composting great way to enrich your lawn and garden and protect air quality
Issued by DNR Central Office on Tuesday, October 08, 2013 at 1:10:34 PM
New DNR air quality maps viewable on smart phones and tablets
Issued by DNR Central Office on Tuesday, October 01, 2013 at 1:39:56 PM
Air quality data easier to view thanks to new DNR web maps
Issued by DNR Central Office on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:08:24 PM
Online chat June 13 to focus on ozone and air quality
Issued by DNR Central Office on Monday, June 10, 2013 at 4:07:48 PM
DNR issues special air quality notice for Germann Road Fire
Issued by DNR Central Office on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 12:20:39 PM
Air quality looking up, DNR report shows
Issued by DNR Central Office on Monday, April 22, 2013 at 12:12:22 PM
We'd love to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the Air Quality Advisories media kit by providing your comments to Anne Bogar (608-266-3725).