COG, in partnership with the District Department of Energy & Environment, Maryland Department of the Environment, and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, provides daily air quality forecasts for the metropolitan Washington region. Forecasts are available year-round and are based on the national Air Quality Index.  

Additional Air Quality Resources:

  • Visit Clean Air Partners to sign up for Air Quality Email Notifications, download the Air Quality App, and get involved to help protect your health and the environment.
  • Call the Weather and Air Quality Forecast Hotline: (202) 589-1212
  • View Historical Air Quality Data
  • Visit COG's Air Quality Planning Areas page for air quality news, documents, committees, and meeting information.  

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a national index for reporting forecasted and daily air quality. It explains how clean or polluted the air is, and highlights associated health concerns. The AQI focuses on health effects that can happen within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. It is divided into several color-coded categories, which correspond to different levels of health concerns.

Air Quality Index
Levels of Health Concern

Numerical
Value

Meaning

Good

0-50

Air quality is considered good, and air pollution poses little or no risk.

Moderate

51-100

Air quality may pose a moderate health risk, especially for those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

Unhealthy for
Sensitive Groups

101-150

Members of sensitive groups, children and adults with respiratory and heart ailments, may experience health effects and should limit time spent outside. The general public is not likely to be affected.

Unhealthy

151-200

Everyone may experience health effects and should limit their outdoor activity; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.

Very Unhealthy

201-300

Everyone may experience more serious health effects and should avoid outdoor activities, especially individuals with heart and breathing ailments, children, and older adults.

Transportation Conformity


Mobile Sources


Air Pollutants

Maryland Air Quality


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For more information:
Sara Tomlinson, stomlinson@baltometro.org or 410-732-0500 x1035.


Particulate matter is a serious problem for the regionParticulate matter pollution is a serious and growing concern. Recent studies show that such pollution is harmful, even at current health standards set by the federal government. New standards address this by working to reduce the levels of the most harmful types of particles.

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter is made of the particles and droplets found in the air. By themselves, these particles and droplets are invisible to the naked eye. But all together, they can appear as clouds or a fog-like haze.

"Fine particles" (1/28 the diameter of a human hair - see picture below) come from many different sources, including industrial and residential combustion and vehicle exhaust. Thousands of these tiny particles would fit on the period at the end of this sentence. Larger particulate matter (coarse particles) also have many sources. These include things like dust from construction, landfills, and stone crushing; wind-blown dust; and road dust.

Image showing particulate matter size compared to a human hair
 Click photo to enlarge.  Source: http://www.epa.gov/


What are examples of particulate matter?

Dust, ash, mist, smoke, soot or fumes.

How does particulate matter affect me?

Both coarse and fine particles are a health concern. Because of their small size, they can get into sensitive areas of the lungs and heart.

Fine particles are the biggest concern because they are linked to the most serious effects. They can cause a persistent cough, wheezing, and physical pain, as well as worsen conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Long-term exposure may increase the rate of respiratory (lung) and cardiovascular (heart) illness and reduce life span.

Is this a new problem?

Particulate matter has been a problem for years. However, recent studies show that major health problems can result from exposure even below current standards. So, the federal government made these standards stricter in order to protect human health and the environment.

What can you do?

  • Reduce travel on days with poor air quality.
  • Avoid using your wood stove and fireplace on days that have poor air quality.
  • Avoid using leaf blowers and other dust-producing equipment.
  • Drive slowly on unpaved roads and other dirt surfaces.

What is the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board doing?The BRTB checks each transportation plan and program in the region to make sure that the fine particulate matter problem in the Baltimore region does not get worse as a result of transportation projects. This also helps us to make sure that these plans do not prevent us from meeting the federal fine particulate matter standard. This is done through what is called the Conformity process.

For more information:
Sara Tomlinson, stomlinson@baltometro.org or 410-732-0500 x1035.

What is ground-level ozone? 

Ozone is a gas that is formed by the combination of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and sunlight. Ground-level ozone is what people commonly refer to as smog.

How does ground-level ozone affect me? 

Ground-level ozone can be harmful to your health if you work or exercise outdoors on a regular basis in the summer, if you have respiratory problems, or if you are a child, or elderly. Short term effects of ground-level ozone include pain when taking a deep breath, coughing, eye irritation, and aggravation of respiratory illnesses like asthma. Long term effects of ozone include reduced lung function and lung damage.


Why are children especially vulnerable to ground-level ozone?

  • They play outside on summer afternoons
  • Their lungs are still developing
  • They breathe more rapidly than adults
  • They inhale more pollution per pound of body weight than adults do

When is ground-level ozone a problem?

Ground-level ozone is mainly a problem between May and September every year.

What can I do?

What is the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board doing to improve air quality? 

The BRTB checks each transportation plan and program in the region to make sure that the ground-level ozone problem in the Baltimore region does not get worse as a result of transportation projects. This also helps us to make sure that these plans do not prevent us from meeting the federal ground-level ozone standard. This is done through what is called the Conformity process.  Learn about how the BRTB addresses transportation-related air pollution.

For more information:
Sara Tomlinson, stomlinson@baltometro.org or 410-732-0500 x1035.

What Air Pollutants in the Baltimore Region Does Traffic Contribute to?

Traffic from vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.) in the Baltimore region contributes to fine particulate matter (fine soot) and ground-level ozone, as well as other pollutants. Ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter are a major concern because the region is not reaching federal standards for these pollutants.

How is Ground-Level Ozone Formed?

Ground-level ozone is formed by the combination of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and sunlight. VOCs come from gasoline, paint, solvents, pesticides and charcoal lighter fluid. They are also formed naturally. NOX comes from cars, trucks, and buses, as well as power plants, and coal-burning stoves.

VOCs + NOX + Sunlight = Ozone

How is Particulate Matter Formed?

Particulate matter is formed both directly and indirectly. It is formed directly by motor vehicles exhaust, fires, power plants, construction dust, and unpaved roads.

EPA - Direct release of Particles
Source: www.epa.gov

Particulate matter is formed indirectly when products of fuel combustion, sunlight, and water vapor react with each other to create particles.


EPA - Reaction
Source: www.epa.gov

 


Facts on the Baltimore Region’s Air Quality

Fact #1: The Baltimore region is not currently meeting federal standards for 8-hour ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter (or fine soot).

Fact #2: The Baltimore/Washington D.C./Northern Virginia region was ranked 13th for ozone pollution by the American Lung Association in their State of the Air 2005 report.

Fact #3: Harford County ranked within the top 25 most polluted counties in the country, in terms of ozone pollution, by the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 report. At the same time, Harford County ranks as one of the cleanest counties in the country for short-term particle pollution.

Fact #4: The Baltimore/Washington D.C./Northern Virginia region was ranked 22nd for short-term particle pollution by the American Lung Association in their State of the Air 2012 report.

Fact #5: Baltimore City ranked in the top 25 most polluted jurisdictionss for short-term particle pollution, by the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2005 report.


Why should we care?

The issue of air pollution in the Baltimore region is a critical one because ozone and fine particulates can cause respiratory systems and other serious health problems in sensitive populations. In addition, fine particulates can increase rates of cardiovascular illness and may reduce life span.


For more information contact:
Sara Tomlinson, stomlinson@baltometro.org or 410-732-0500 x1035.

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