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Iowa Counties Identified as Possible Pollution Nonattainment Area

Release Date: 08/19/2008
Contact Information: David Bryan, 913-551-7433,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., August 19, 2008) - EPA has sent a letter to Gov. Chet Culver proposing Scott and Muscatine counties in Iowa as potential nonattainment areas for exceeding the short-term fine-particle pollution standard of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Nonattainment areas are areas that violate or contribute to nearby areas that violate air quality standards. Areas designated as "nonattainment" are required to develop plans to reduce emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources had asked for a one-year delay in the attainment designations for eastern Iowa. EPA believes that sufficient scientific information exists to accurately establish levels of nonattainment in Muscatine and Scott counties in Iowa, and Rock Island County in Illinois. Iowa and Illinois now have the opportunity to submit new information and analyses no later than October 20, 2008, to support an alternative nonattainment designation or boundary recommendation. There will also be an opportunity for the public to provide their comments to EPA.

EPA has until Dec. 18, 2008 to finalize designations as attainment or nonattainment areas.

States with nonattainment designations are required by the Clean Air Act to identify control strategies to reduce fine particle pollution in these areas. Examples of control measures that may be required include: stricter controls on industrial facilities, stricter air permits, and transportation conformity (which ensures transportation planning does not interfere with air quality goals).

Fine-particle pollution represents one of the most significant barriers to clean air facing our nation today. Health studies link these tiny particles – about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair – to serious human health problems including aggravated asthma, increased respiratory symptoms like coughing and difficult or painful breathing, chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, and even premature death in people with heart and lung disease. An area must have monitored readings below 35 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particle pollution (or PM2.5) within a three-year average.

Fine particle pollution can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and create public health problems far away from emission sources. Reducing levels of fine-particle (PM2.5) pollution is an important part of our nation's commitment to clean, healthy air.

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