Jump to main content.


Air

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more about PDF, and for a link to the free Acrobat Reader.

A wide variety of issues are involved in maintaining the quality of our air. EPA is concerned about ensuring that the air we breathe does not cause health problems or other environmental concerns.  The links below also include programs related to topics such as acid rain, global warming, and the hole in the ozone layer.

Related topics
Alternative or "Clean" Fuels
EPA National Clean Diesel Campaign
Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards and Highway Diesel Fuel Sulfur Control Requirements
Nonroad Engines and Air Pollution
Reducing Nonroad Diesel Emissions
SmartWaySM Transport Partnership

Related publications from the Ag Center
Air
Climate Change and Global Warming

Related laws and policies
Clean Air Act

Related environmental requirements
Clean Air Act -- Plain English Guide
Clean Air Act text
Air Pollution State Resource Locator Exit EPA - State and regional regulatory agencies and rules covering topic such as open burning, smoke and dust

More information from EPA
Air and Radiation

Air Best Management Practices
AgSTAR Program - encourages the use of methane recovery (biogas) technologies at the confined animal feeding operations that manage manure as liquids or slurries.
ENERGY STAR - joint program between EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy to help save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
Burn Wise - partnership program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that emphasizes the importance of burning the right wood, the right way, in the right wood-burning appliance to protect your home, health, and the air we breathe.
Green Power Partnership - encourages organizations to buy green power as a way to lessen the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use.
Improving Air Quality Through Land Use Activities (PDF) (110 pp, 1.1MB) - this guidance document describes how to use existing EPA regulations and policies to account for the air quality benefits of land use activities that encourage travel patterns and choices that reduce vehicle miles of travel, and consequently reduce emissions from motor vehicles.
It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air - public education and partnership-building initiative developed collaboratively by several federal agencies to help regional, state, and community efforts to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.
National Clean Diesel Campaign - a collaborative to reduce the pollution emitted from diesel engines across the country through the implementation of varied control strategies and the aggressive involvement of national, state, and local partners.
SmartWaySM Transport Partnership - voluntary collaboration between U.S. EPA and the freight industry designed to increase energy efficiency while significantly reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution.

Telephone assistance from EPA
EPA's Control Technology Center, at 919-541-0800, provides general assistance and information on CAA standards.

More information from USDA
NIFA Air Quality Program

More information from universities Exit EPA
Center for Ag Air Quality Engineering and Science

Top of Page


Acid Rain

Acidic deposition, or acid rain, as it is commonly known, occurs when emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and oxidants to form various acidic compounds. These compounds then fall to the Earth in either dry form (such as gas and particles) or wet form (such as rain, snow, and fog). Prevailing winds transport the compounds, sometimes for hundreds of miles, across state and national borders.

Acid rain causes acidification of lakes and streams and contributes to damage of trees at high elevations (for example, red spruce trees at elevations of more than 2,000 feet).  Before falling to the Earth, SO2 and NOx gases and their particulate matter derivatives, sulfates and nitrates, impair visibility and have an adverse effect on public health.

Related laws and policies
Clean Air Act

Related environmental requirements
Clean Air Act -- Plain English Guide
Clean Air Act Title IV
Acid Rain Regulations -- 40 CFR Parts 72-78

More information from EPA
Acid Rain Program
US - Canada Air Quality Agreement Progress Reports 

Telephone assistance from EPA
EPA's Control Technology Center, at 919-541-0800, provides general assistance and information on CAA standards.

More information from other organizations
National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) - Nitrogen in the Nation's Rain (PDF) (16 pp, 940K) Exit EPA

Top of Page


Backyard Burning

Backyard burning refers to the burning of household trash by residents on their own property. Trash typically burned can include paper, cardboard, food scraps, plastics, and yard trimmings—essentially any materials that would otherwise be recycled or sent to a landfill. Burning usually occurs in a burn barrel, homemade burn box, wood stove, outdoor boiler, or open pit. Air emissions from backyard burning are released directly to the atmosphere without being treated or filtered.

Backyard burning is common in many areas of the country. People burn trash for various reasons—either because it is easier than hauling it to the local disposal site or to avoid paying for regular waste collection service. Most people who burn their waste do not realize how harmful this practice is to their health and to the environment. Current research indicates that backyard burning is far more harmful to our health than previously thought. It can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea, or headaches.

Backyard burning is particularly dangerous because it releases pollutants at ground level where they are more readily inhaled or incorporated into the food chain.

Related publications from the Ag Center
Air
Agricultural Burning

More information from EPA
Backyard Burning
Photo gallery of backyard burning

Top of Page


New Source Performance Standards and Emission Guidelines for Existing Sources: Other Solid Waste Incineration Units

In response to the requirement to publish a schedule for regulation of other categories of solid waste incineration units, a Federal Register notice (58 FR 31358, June 2, 1993) was published that proposed a regulatory schedule and a draft list of potential subcategories for consideration of regulation under OSWI standards. After receiving comments on the June 1993 notice, another Federal Register notice (58 FR 58498, November 2, 1993) was published to include comments received on the draft category list and proposed regulatory schedule. The November 1993 notice listed the following potential subcategories of OSWI:

    1. Very small municipal waste combustion units;
    2. Residential incinerators;
    3. Agricultural waste incinerators;
    4. Wood waste incinerators;
    5. Construction and demolition waste incinerators;
    6. Crematories; and
    7. Contaminated soil treatment facilities.

Current assessment of the above categories
To find a description of EPA's current assessment of categories (3) agricultural waste incinerators, (4) wood waste incinerators and (6) crematories (including livestock, poultry), please see the Federal Register notice for December 9, 2004. (scroll down to page 71479, which is roughly 1/5th of the way through the document). None of these three categories were included by EPA as a subcategory of Other Solid Waste Incinerators (OSWI) for regulation at this time.

More information from EPA
General Information on Proposed Standards of Performance for Emission Controls of Other Solid Waste Incinerators
Fact Sheet on Proposed Rules to Reduce Air Emissions from Other Solid Waste Incineration Units (PDF) (3 pp, 80K)

Top of Page


Ozone Depletion, the Greenhouse Effect, Global Warming, and Climate Change

Ozone is a gas that occurs both in the Earth's upper atmosphere and at ground level. Ozone can be "good" or "bad" for people's health and for the environment, depending on its location in the atmosphere.

EPA Ozone Homepage
Ground Level Ozone
Stratospheric Ozone

The Phaseout of Ozone Depleting Substance
To protect stratospheric ozone, the manufacture of ozone-depleting chemicals is being phased out and restrictions are being placed on their use and distribution.

Alternatives to Methyl Bromide
Crops
Forestry
Nurseries and Greenhouses

Related publications from the Ag Center
Air
Climate Change and Global Warming
Food Safety

Related laws and policies
Clean Air Act

Related environmental requirements
Clean Air Act -- Plain English Guide
Clean Air Act Title IV
List of Ozone-Depleting Substances
Substitutes for Ozone-Depleting Substances

More information from EPA
Ozone Depletion
Climate Change
Montreal Protocol Amendments - a proposal to adjust the Montreal Protocol to accelerate the phase-out of ozone-damaging chemicals
Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2005 report
Risk Mitigation Measures for Soil Fumigant Pesticides

Telephone assistance from EPA
The Stratospheric Ozone Information Hotline, at 800-296-1996, provides general information about regulations promulgated under Title VI of the CAA.

Top of Page


Particulates

Particulate matter is the term for solid or liquid particles found in the air. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen, such as soot or smoke. Others are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. All of these particles, regardless of size, originate from a variety of mobile and stationary sources (farm equipment, diesel trucks, wood stoves, etc.).

In 1987, EPA replaced the earlier Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) air quality standard with a PM10 standard. The new standard focuses on smaller particles that are likely responsible for adverse health effects because of their ability to reach the lower regions of the respiratory tract. The PM10 standard includes particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less (0.0004 inches or one-seventh the width of a human hair). Major concerns for human health from exposure to PM10 include: effects on breathing and respiratory systems; damage to lung tissue; cancer; and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma are especially sensitive to the effects of particulate matter. Acidic PM10 can also damage human-made materials and is a major cause of reduced visibility in many parts of the United States. On December 17, 2004, EPA took final action to designate attainment and nonattainment areas under the more protective national air quality standards for fine particles (PM2.5).

Related laws and policies
Clean Air Act -- Air emissions from farming practices
Clean Air Act -- Grain terminal elevators

Related environmental requirements
Clean Air Act -- Plain English Guide
Clean Air Act Title I

More information from EPA
Information on Particulate Matter
Particulate Matter - National Ambient Air Quality Standards
PM10 Implementation
PM2.5 Implementation
The Particle Pollution Report: Current Understanding of Air Quality and Emissions through 2003
Fine Particle (PM2.5) Designations
November 13, 2009 Federal Register Notice: Initial Air Quality Designations for the 2006 24-Hour Fine Particle (PM2.5) National Ambient Air Quality Standards

More information from Canada
Canada - United States Transboundary PM Science Assessment (PDF) (150 pp, 10.7MB) Exit EPA - This report was undertaken by the Canada-U.S. Subcommittee on Scientific Co-operation, in support of the Canada - U.S. Air Quality Agreement.

Telephone assistance from EPA
EPA's Control Technology Center (919-541-0800) provides general assistance and information on CAA standards.

Top of Page

This page is sponsored by EPA's Ag Center. Ag Center logo


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.