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Similar to the weather in Kansas, the quality of the air can change from day to day. In order to help citizens understand the quality of the air on a day to day basis, the KDHE provides real-time monitoring data from the Kansas Air Quality Monitoring Network. This monitoring data is used by the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate the Air Quality Index for areas with population of 350,000 people or more as required by federal law. Knowing the local air quality forecast is especially important to people with respiratory illnesses.
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The Air Monitoring and Planning Section staff provides technical services and scientific data to the Bureau to maintain and improve Kansas air quality. Activities include administration of the air monitoring and modeling program and the emissions inventory program. Section staff also operates the air monitoring network, in cooperation with two local agencies, which provides air quality data from 20 sites around the state. The air monitoring data is analyzed to determine compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and to evaluate air quality trends.
Staff members also conduct an annual emissions inventory of pollutants emitted from permitted facilities and other sources for the entire state. Emissions inventory data is used to conduct air quality modeling. Modeling aids in understanding the causes of air pollution and to develop pollution reduction strategies in targeted areas. Pollution reduction strategies are incorporated into state implementation plans (SIP) to protect public health, welfare and the environment from the negative effects of air pollution.
The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) were established in the original Clean Air Act (CAA) and revised in 1990. NAAQS are standards set for each air pollutant anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. Pollutants in this category, termed criteria pollutants, include:
There are two types of air quality standards. The primary standard is designed to protect public health with an adequate safety margin. Permissible levels of each pollutant were chosen to protect the health of the most susceptible individuals in a population, including children, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory illnesses. The secondary standard is designed to protect public welfare and ensure quality of life. Air quality conditions described by the secondary standard may be the same as the primary standard and are chosen to limit economic damage as well as harmful effects to buildings, plants, and animals. The Kansas Ambient Air Monitoring Network measures six criteria air pollutants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates the Air Quality Index (AQI) for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act (CAA):
Sources of air pollution are divided up into four categories:
Point sources are large, stationary sources of emissions. Examples of point sources are natural gas compressor stations, petroleum refineries and grain processing or storage facilities. Non-Point sources are smaller, generally more numerous sources whose individual emissions do not qualify them as point sources. Although area sources release relatively small amounts of air pollutants on an individual basis, because of the numbers of these sources, their emissions as a whole are significant. Examples include household solvents and paints, motor vehicle refueling and residential fuel combustion.
On-Road Mobile Sources are sources of air pollution that are not stationary, and can typically be driven on a highway such as cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles. Non-Road Mobile Sources are also not stationary, but typically are not driven on highways. Examples of Non-Road Mobile Sources include lawnmowers, locomotives, and tractors.
There are many adverse health effects from elevated air pollutant levels, and both the symptoms and the severity of the effect can vary greatly from person to person. Some health effects of elevated air pollutant levels include difficulty breathing, chest pains, coughing, and headaches. People with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or other upper respiratory illness are often more susceptible to adverse health effects caused by elevated air pollutant levels.
Determining the quality of the air on a daily basis is difficult for the average person. To help the public understand the quality of the air the Environmental Protection Agency created the Air Quality Index (AQI).