Air Quality in Iowa
Air quality affects the way you live and how well you breathe. It can also change on a daily or even hourly basis. Exposure to poor quality air can cause adverse health effects including reduced lung function, permanent lung damage, aggravated asthma, and others.
Threats to Iowa Air Quality
- Fine Particulate Matter Pollution: Upon being inhaled, fine particles can become lodged in the lungs ,which according to the EPA, causes premature death, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath, and other health issues. The EPA deems it “necessary to protect human health” to have a Clean Air Act fine particulate matter standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. Several counties in Eastern Iowa have concentrations near or exceeding this standard. Learn more >>
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Greenhouse gas emissions contribute greatly to the alteration of the Earth’s climate, which threatens our natural resources and global food supply. Learn more >>
- Ammonia: Iowa has some of the highest concentrations of ammonia in the lower atmosphere in the U.S. Ammonia emissions contribute to dangerous fine particulate matter pollution and can also be re-deposited from the air back to land and water, which harms the environment and contributes to “Dead Zones” in water bodies. Learn more >>
- Hazardous Air Pollutants or Air Toxics: Some hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) can cause cancer, birth defects, brain and mental disorders, as well as other serious health effects and adverse environmental effects. While hazardous air pollutants are emitted by facilities throughout Iowa, the Iowa DNR monitors hazardous air pollutant concentrations in only three cities: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport. Learn more >>
- Emissions from Livestock Facilities: Odor emissions decrease quality of life for many rural Iowans. Neighbors of swine facilities have reported greater incidents of mood disturbances, headaches, runny noses, sore throats, excessive coughing, diarrhea, and burning eyes. Ammonia emissions harm ecosystems and add to the formation of fine particulate matter. In Iowa, livestock facilities are the main source of both odor emissions and ammonia emissions. Learn more >>
Air quality where you live
The Air Quality Index (AQI) reports daily air quality. The AQI is calculated for four major air pollutants: ground level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. All four of these pollutants are regulated by the Clean Air Act and the EPA has created national air quality standards to protect public health.
AQI values run from 0 to 500, but the lower the better. Values above 100 are considered unhealthy. The AQI splits into six separate categories: good (0-50), moderate (51-100), unhealthy for sensitive groups (101-150), unhealthy (151-200), very unhealthy (201-300), and hazardous (301-500).
More than 1,000 locations in the U.S. have the concentrations of major pollutions monitored everyday. Each pollutant is given its own AQI value and the highest of the four values is reported as the value for the day. If multiple pollutants register at more than 100, the greatest value is the one reported as the daily AQI. Whenever the AQI is above 100 agencies must report to those who may be sensitive to that particular pollutant. Many cities also provide an AQI forecast for the next day.
The following websites provide up-to-date air quality information to the public: