Nick Fetty | May 13, 2016
Air quality in Iowa has improved dramatically over the past five decades according to a recent report by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The report – Ambient Air Quality Improvements in Iowa – finds that harmful air pollutants such as sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides have declined, 60 percent and 43 percent respectively, since 1978. Both compounds can lead to respiratory issues and sulfur dioxide can contribute to acid rain. These health effects can be especially harmful to children, the elderly, those with lungs diseases, and those who exercise outdoors.
In 1978, 13 Iowa counties recorded air pollution levels that exceeded National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) compared to just two counties in 2015: Muscatine and Pottawattamie. Council Bluffs, the county seat in Pottawattamie County, exceeded NAAQS standards for lead particles in the air in 2010 and 2012 but those levels were below the NAAQS standards from 2013 to January of 2016. Muscatine, the county seat in Muscatine County, experienced unsafe levels of fine particulate matter in the air in 2009 and 2010 but those levels have since declined. Additionally, data in Muscatine showed excessive levels of sulfur dioxide in 2008 and 2010 but levels have also declined since 2010.
The reductions in harmful air pollutants across the state has in part been attributed to newer, more efficient equipment and technology. Despite the overall improvements in Iowa’s air quality, the state’s productivity, population, and travel miles have increased since 1978, all of which can be potential sources contributing to air pollution.