Air Quality Awareness
Know What You’re Breathing
The quality of air we breathe, inside and out, can have a major impact on our health and the health of the natural environment. Genesee County is committed to educating the community about air quality awareness and making improvements towards a healthier population. This page provides resources to help you improve air quality in your community.
Air Quality Index (AQI) is used to measure levels of pollution in the air. Higher AQI readings indicate higher levels of dangerous pollutants affecting the air we breathe. This is the main contributor to hazardous air quality days. Due to this, the EPA recommends postponing outdoor activities on days where the AQI is above 50.
Genesee County has an average AQI of 49 which falls under the “GOOD” air quality index category. View the air quality of Genesee County in real time with this handy tool!
The impact on air quality is an important component of GCMPC’s transportation planning program. The Clean Air Act (CAA) ensures that local transportation projects align with Michigan’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) and will meet federal air quality standards. Currently, Genesee County is considered a low maintenance plan area which is an area that is not required to conduct emission modeling for air quality conformity. In other words, Genesee County is in attainment and is meeting or is cleaner than national air quality standards.
Although Genesee County is in attainment, staff recognize that air quality is an important environmental topic that people generally do not consider how they may be impacting on a day-to-day basis. Due to this, staff decided to start an air quality awareness program that brings attention to local air quality and what Genesee County residents can do to enhance it in our community. In 2021, the Genesee County Air Quality Awareness program began, and staff are now working to expand outreach and education around this important issue.
According to the EPA, there are six major pollutants that can have an impact on your health:
- Carbon Monoxide: Forms from gasoline fueled vehicles and other on-road and non-road mobile sources.
- Lead: Forms from industrial sources, such as smelting, battery recycling operations, and small aircrafts that use leaded aviation gasoline.
- Nitrogen Dioxide: Emitted by cars, trucks, buses, power plants, and non-road engines and equipment.
- Ozone: Forms from fuel combustion in motor vehicles, pollutants emitted from industrial facilities, or by-products of electric utilities mixing with sunlight.
- Particulate Matter: Forms from man-made stationary and mobile sources, forest fires, and transformations of gaseous emissions. Is categorized by size, with the smallest size being the most harmful.
- Sulfur Dioxide: Forms from fossil fuel combustion by electrical utilities and industrial burning.
For more information, visit: Criteria Air Pollutants | US EPA
When we are exposed to high levels of air pollutants for extended periods of time, there is an increased risk of developing respiratory diseases or other complications. These complications may include:
Air Quality Health Stats:
- 9 out of 10 people breathe unhealthy air
- 40% of the world’s population suffers from chronic allergic respiratory diseases caused by air pollution
- 95% of the world population are exposed to levels of particulate matter that exceeds the WHO recommended limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter
- A long term study found an association between lung cancer and an increased reliance on coal for energy generation
- All but two of the twenty five worst cities for short term particle pollution are in the western United States
- Approximately 6 million children in the United States have asthma and are vulnerable to air pollution
- Children who play several outdoor sports and live in high ozone communities are more likely to develop asthma
- Reductions in particulate matter concentrations were correlated with significant increases in life expectancy
- Wildfire smoke accounts for 25% of dangerous air pollution in the United States
Monitor the Air Quality of the United States
The EnviroFlash tool allows users to monitor the air quality of different places across the United States. Through a partnership between local air quality agencies and the EPA, users can sign up to receive instant air quality notifications sent to their email or cell phone. Sign up by clicking the image below or using this link: EnviroFlash - Home
Everyday Tips to Improve Air Quality
By making small changes in your lifestyle, you can help lessen the emissions that are produced daily. Do this by implementing energy saving methods such as turning off the lights when you leave a room, filling up your gas tank in the morning or at night, and cutting back on single use plastics. See the infographic below for more simple daily tips!
There are many other ways that you can help to have cleaner air in our community. See below for 10 ways to improve air quality at home, school, work, and while traveling.
Passenger vehicles contribute to 26% of all man-made greenhouse gases. Carpool and Vanpool services aim to minimize the harmful emissions that come from burning of fossil fuels through reducing the amount of individual drivers on the road.
By signing up for one of these programs, Genesee County residents can lower pollution levels by decreasing individual miles traveled and conserve non-renewable resources. Together we can encourage positive changes to the way we use transportation and limit the amount of fossil fuels burned each year.
Visit the following page to learn more: www.gcmpc.org/rideshare
Air Pollution for Kids
Air Pollution 101
Air Quality Awareness Links:
- Criteria Air Pollutants | US EPA
- Do you think about air quality? | NCEH | CDC
- Taking On Climate Change At Home: How You Can Cut Carbon Emissions
- United Nations Environment Program
- Why Air Quality Is Important
Government Air Quality Links:
- Battle Creek Area Transportation Study
- Grand Valley Metro Council
- Macatawa Area Coordinating Council
- Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)
- Southeast Michigan Council of Governments
- Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- West Michigan Clean Air Coalition
- West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission
Public Transit Links:
Student Resource Links:
- Air Quality Activities for Kids
- Air Quality Toolkit for Teachers (K-8 Lesson Plans)
Tire Pressure Informational Links:
Walking and Biking Trail Links:
Wood Burning Informational Links:
- American Lung Association - Residential Wood Burning Info
- EPA's Burn Wise Best Practices Videos
- Learn Before You Burn Wood - What You Can Do
- Wood Smoke and Your Health
What is Air Pollution?
Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical, or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristic of the atmosphere.
What are common Air Pollutants?
Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities, and forest fires are common sources of air pollutions. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, lead, and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases and are contributing sources of illness and mortality.
What is an Air Quality Index?
An air quality index (AQI) is a common tool for reporting and communicating the state of air quality in a city or at a regional level on a short-term basis. Ideally, it expresses air quality in easily understood terms. AQI is also used to make recommendations aimed at reducing air pollution exposure and to provide health advisories to members of the public including those who are more vulnerable to adverse air pollution exposure.
How does the AQI Work?
Think of AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality. An AQI value above 100 generally corresponds to unhealthy air quality, while an AQI below 100 is typically satisfactory. The AQI is divided into six categories: 0 to 50 is good; 51 to 100 is moderate; 101 to 150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups; 151 to 200 is unhealthy; 201 to 300 is very unhealthy; and 301 or higher is hazardous.
Is Air Quality an issue in Genesee County?
Although Genesee County’s air quality generally falls into the healthy category on the air quality index, the county still experiences days throughout the year where air pollution is elevated into unhealthy categories due to a variety of factors. In 2023, wildfires in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Quebec raised Genesee County’s air quality into both the unhealthy for sensitive groups and unhealthy categories on the AQI. The fires were burning for several days creating hazy skies and fog throughout the region as smoke drifted across Southeastern Michigan. As the smoke lingered, fine particulate matter in the air increased which can cause irritation in the lungs and breathing difficulties.
Who is more at risk of Air Pollution?
The following categories are generally considered to be more at risk to air pollution:
- Children and pregnant women
- Outdoor workers
- People with pre-existing conditions (e.g. cardiorespiratory)
It is particularly important for these categories of people to reduce short-term exposure (hours to days) to air pollution. Reducing long-term exposure (weeks to year) is important for everyone.
What can be done to Improve Air Quality in the County?
The most important thing people can do is to be informed about air pollution where they live and how it may affect them. Below is a list of other actions that people can take to reduce their personal contribution to air pollution:
- Use alternative modes of transportation when possible, such as public transportation, cycling, walking, or even carpooling.
- When buying a vehicle, review its fuel economy and emissions. Consider buying a hybrid, electric, or vehicle with a smaller engine capacity.
- Ensure your vehicle is serviced regularly to minimize its contribution to air pollution.
- Refrain from burning household waste.
- Install insulation, draught-proof windows, as well as energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs in your home.
- Consider buying electric power tools and lawn equipment instead of gas powered.
What are the best ways to “Burn Clean” while using a fire?
By changing the way you burn wood in your woodstove, you can save money, reduce air pollution, and protect your health. Upgrading to an EPA-certified woodstove or other clean burning technology can be beneficial. All new stoves are EPA-certified and burn cleaner and more efficiently. A clean-burning stove emits 70 percent less particle pollution and uses 30 percent less wood on average compared to an older stove. It is also important to use the proper firewood. Hardwoods are ideal, and all firewood should be split, securely covered or stored, and aged at least six months. Never burn trash or treated wood which can emit toxic air pollutants.
Interested in receiving information about Genesee County’s environmental programs? To stay up to date on Recycle Day events, air quality issues, ridesharing, and other local environmental topics, please provide your full name and email address to email@example.com. By providing your contact info, you will be added to our environmental programs email distribution list.