Benton Clean Air Agency

Air Quality

Why it matters:

  • With every breath you take, your lungs are exposed to the world around you, filtering over 8,000 liters of air a day. Breathing dirty air hurts the body both by inflaming and destroying lung tissue and by weakening the lungs’ defenses against contaminants and infection.
  • Over 500,000 people in Washington state have lung disease. For them, air pollution—even at moderate levels—may mean discomfort, limited activities, increased use of medications, more frequent visits to doctors, and even a shortened life.
  • Even otherwise healthy people can suffer when pollution levels are high. Symptoms may include watery eyes, runny nose, coughing and wheezing. Breathing dirty air is especially hard on the elderly, pregnant women, as well as young children and infants whose lungs are still developing.

How we’re doing:

  • Air quality in our region and across the United States has dramatically improved since the 1970s and 1980s. This history was developed by Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.
  • In Benton County, particulate pollution and air toxics are our greatest air quality concerns. These pollutants pose a range of health impacts – such as respiratory ailments, heart disease and cancer – which is why we support and implement programs and policies designed to reduce their emissions, and our risk of exposure to them.
  • Agricultural irrigation development from the 50’s to the 70’s increased the stability of the landscape. In the 80’s and 90’s there were extended periods of below normal precipitation. Dust storms during these years resulted in a number of exceedances of the air pollution standards for PM10.
  • During the late 1980s and early 1990s Benton County was subject to a large number of exceedances of the 24-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for particulate matter ten microns or less (PM10).
  • These exceedances were recorded in Spokane, Kennewick, and Wallula, Washington. An examination showed a close correlation to high wind events. The exeedances are primarily attributable to activity on agricultural fields, although other sources may contribute.
  • As a result of a great deal of work and cooperation with the agricultural and business communities, the Conservation Districts and Washington State University, measures have been implemented that keep recent PM10 exceedances at a level far below previous decades.
  • Since 2005 Benton County consistently has not violated any of the federal, health-based air quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Air Quality Challenges: - As we look ahead our challenges include:

  • Meeting more stringent and health protective air quality standards for coarse and fine particulate matter being developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Implementing new federal programs to protect the public from hazardous air pollutants
  • Maintaining adequate program funding to meet these and other challenges
  • Supporting local businesses in their efforts to comply with air quality regulations.