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What new EPA standards for fine-particle pollutants mean for Maricopa County

Maricopa County Air Quality Department

The Maricopa County Air Quality Department uses several programs to reduce wood burning and associated particulate matter pollution.

The EPA recently introduced stronger standards to reduce particles, one of the most common pollutants in Maricopa County's air. The particles are extremely small, only about the width of a human hair.

Ari Halpert with the Maricopa County Air Quality Department said they have been able to reduce this type of pollution over the past 30 years. But the county will need to find ways to further reduce emissions to meet new PM2.5 standards by the end of the year.

“Our topography, our weather, the fact that we're a desert, all of those things affect air quality,” Halpert said. “But there are ways to minimize air pollution. It takes time, but it all depends on community effort, education, and resources.”

She says the valley has a unique combination that causes something called a temperature inversion.

Changing temperatures and the mountains surrounding the valley create a kind of lid that traps polluted air close to the ground, where it heats up until equilibrium is reached.

“This can last for days or even weeks,” Halpert says.

The cartoon graphic shows the creature relaxing by an outdoor fireplace and toasting marshmallows.The text at the top is

Maricopa County Air Quality Department

The Maricopa County Air Quality Department uses several programs to reduce wood burning and associated particulate matter pollution.

Burning wood, especially on non-burning days, personal fireworks, and driving or idling your car can all contribute to the buildup of stuff trapped under the lid. It's a sexual way.

And these tiny particles are especially easy to inhale, Halpert said.

“They can reach the deepest parts of the lungs and even invade the bloodstream,” she said. “This can cause respiratory problems and even cardiac arrest for more sensitive groups.”

Halpert said public commitment will ultimately be needed to reduce PM2.5 pollution enough to meet the new standards. So it's like starting small and I think it's important that we all realize how our actions affect everyone as a whole. ”

Even if the trash is noticeable, it's important to remember, Halpert said. “We all breathe the same air.”

“And we can definitely see PM2.5,” she added. “You've probably seen that layer of dirty air when you're driving down the highway or when you can't even see the mountains on the horizon.”

A diagram explaining what PM2.5 particles are in Spanish.

Maricopa County Air Quality Department

English: PM2.5 particles, also known as smoke, can be absorbed into the bloodstream and affect lung function, worsen bronchitis and asthma, and increase the risk of heart attack.

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