February 12, 2016

Elevated air pollution readings found in several counties

Air monitors in eastern Iowa counties picked up elevated levels of dirty air today. John Gering of the Iowa DNR’s Air Quality Bureau, says the gauges measure on an hourly basis the small particles of pollution in the air that create smog.

Just one gauge found a 24-hour average level that exceeded what the EPA considers healthy. “In Waterloo, the 24-hour average for fine particulates was 36.7-micrograms per cubic meter, and the 24-hour health threshold from EPA is actually 35-micrograms per cubic meter,” Gering says.

Gering says the problem has been caused in part by cloudy skies and a lack of wind. “Just right around lunch, the winds in Waterloo were southeast at three-miles-an hour — a relatively low windspeed. Also the direction of the wind has a bearing on the levels too,” Gering explains.

“We tend to get regional pollutant carryover that’s associated with southeast winds, southeast winds bring in dirtier air from the coal-burning Ohio Valley.” Other monitors in the state recorded elevated levels of fine particles in Cedar Rapids (41.2) , Clinton (29.6), Davenport (37.8)  and Iowa City (36.4).

None of those levels averaged above the healthy limit over the 24-hour measuring period. Gering says most people probably would not notice an immediate impact from the dirty air Blackhawk county.

“In our cautionary language we recommend that people with respiratory or heart disease — as well as elderly folks and children — limit prolonged exertion outdoor until the air quality conditions improve,” Gering says. He says heavier northeast winds are expected to move into the area tonight and into to Tuesday and that should help clear out some of the problem.

You can view the EPA’s national air quality map online at: www.airnow.gov.

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