IN.gov - Skip Navigation

Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.

Air Quality in Indiana

Air Quality in Indiana > Air Quality 101 > April 2014: The States’ View of the Air (2014) April 2014: The States’ View of the Air (2014)

In an earlier article I described the American Lung Association’s (ALA) report, “The State of the Air,” and the limitations I see in the report. For the past three years I have prepared a report called “The States’ View of the Air.” My report starts with the same data as the ALA, but analyzes it differently. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the ALA base the air quality of an area on the worst monitored value seen in that area. I use the average of the maximum values and not the worst value. This is more in line with what health researchers use.

Nationwide Trends

Based upon the average values, my analysis shows that in the 2000 to 2002 time period, only 17.2 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas where air quality was better than the 8-hour ozone standard. Another 50.8 percent lived in areas where air quality did not meet the standard, and the remainder (33.6 percent) lived in areas where ozone levels were not measured. Based upon data for 2010 to 2012, things improved significantly. By this time, 40.8 percent of the population lived in areas meeting the standard, 30.0 percent lived in areas that did not meet the standard, and 29.2 percent lived in areas where ozone was not being measured.

For the 2000 to 2002 period, 34.4 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas meeting the 24-hour PM-2.5 (fine particle) standard. Another 28.6 percent lived in areas that did not meet the standard, and the remainder (37.0 percent) lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not measured. By the 2010 to 2012 period, 62.9 percent of the population lived in areas where the 24-hour PM-2.5 standard was met. Only 0.9 percent of the people lived in areas above, or not meeting, the standard. Another 36.1 percent lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured.

In the 2000 to 2002 period, 43.2 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. Another 19.8 percent lived in areas not meeting the standard, and the remainder (37.0 percent) lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured. By 2010 to 2012, 63.9 percent of the population lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. Less than 0.1 percent of the population lived in areas not meeting the annual standard. Another 36.1 percent of the population lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not measured.

Indiana Trends

Data for Indiana show a similar improvement. In the 2000 to 2002 period, only 3.5 percent of the Hoosiers lived in counties where air quality was better than the 8-hour standard. Another 57.0 percent lived in counties that did not meet the standard, and the remainder (39.4 percent) lived in counties where ozone was not being measured. During the 2010 to 2012 period, 60.8 percent of Hoosiers lived in counties meeting the ozone standard. Another 5.1 percent lived in counties where the ozone standard was not met. The remaining 34.1 percent lived in counties that did not have ozone monitors.

For the 2000 to 2002 period, 20.5 percent of Hoosiers lived in counties meeting the 24-hour PM-2.5 standard. Another 29.3 percent lived in areas that did not meet the standard, and the remainder (50.1 percent) lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not measured. By the 2010 to 2012 period, 56.5 percent of the population lived in areas where the 24-hour PM-2.5 standard was met. No Hoosiers lived in areas above this standard, while 43.5 percent lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being monitored.

In the 2000 to 2002 period, 16.0 percent of Hoosiers lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. Another 33.8 percent lived in areas not meeting the standard, and the remainder (50.1 percent) lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured. By the 2010 to 2012 period, 56.5 percent of Hoosiers lived in areas meeting the annual PM-2.5 standard. No Hoosiers lived in area not meeting the annual standard; 43.5 percent of Hoosiers lived in areas where PM-2.5 was not being measured.

The important point is that the air quality is better than it has been portrayed in some reports. When U.S. EPA or ALA provides statistics on the number of people living in counties that do not meet the standards, many of those people are not exposed to levels above the standard. This is especially evident in Los Angeles. While we think of the ozone levels there as extremely bad, the average design value for 2010 to 2012 was 0.075 parts per million (ppm). The standard is 0.075 ppm., so many people are breathing air quality that actually meets the standard. There are still areas of the country that have problems meeting the ozone standard and a few that are not meeting the PM-2.5 standard.

Each time U.S. EPA tightens a standard, the number of people exposed to air that does not meet it will increase until further improvements are made. Not all of the air measured in Indiana meets all health standards in 2010 to 2012, so we have more work to do. Most states, including Indiana, have areas that will not immediately meet the new standards. The fact is that significant progress has been made in reducing ozone and fine particles over this time period, and our air quality is expected to become even healthier. It is very concerning that some reports do not provide accurate information about how our air quality really measures up in comparison to nationally accepted, current federal air health standards.

IDEM is working to provide accurate, factual information to the public, as well as organizations such as the ALA and the news media. The public can view The States’ View of the Air (2014) report on IDEM’s website and visit IDEM’s Air Quality in Indiana website for additional topics.

Comments can be sent to me at kbaugues@idem.in.gov.