What’s air pollution?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases, which can be fatal.”
“Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.”
The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were passed to reduce pollution and establish standards for industrial air emissions.
Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments of 1990
- Allow the EPA to set limits on the level of air pollutants anywhere in the country.
- Allow individual states to have stricter air emission regulations, but not less stringent regulations than those set by EPA.
- Assure facilities have air emission permits where they are required, and that the permit is properly documented (not all emission sources need permits).
The most commonly recognized air pollutants are designated by the EPA as “Criteria Air Pollutants”, because the EPA first developed health-based criteria in order to set permissible levels of exposure to them.
These Criteria Air Pollutants can lead to respiratory related-health issues in people and can have negative impacts on the environment. Each Criteria Air Pollutant has a National Ambient Air Quality Standard associated with it.
There are six Criteria Air Pollutants: oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, lead, ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.
Air Quality: What You Must Know
- What are the air emission sources and emission rates?
- What regulations apply?
- Is the facility in compliance?
- Does the facility need permits?
Determining if the facility needs permits can be complicated. In this section the six steps involved in the permitting/compliance process are outlined.
Strategies for Matching Regulatory Requirements
Six Steps to Getting Started
- Step 1: Conduct an emission inventory
- Step 2: Evaluate the current performance of control equipment (e.g., baghouses, cyclones, scrubbers)
- Step 3: Estimate actual and potential emissions from each source
- Step 4: Determine applicability of regulations
- Step 5: Determine compliance status
- Step 6: Provide supporting documentation for the source ID, emission inventory and compliance status determination
Step 1. Conduct an emission inventory
- Identify potential air emission sources (such as boilers or heating equipment, emergency power generators, paint booths, foundries, and fuel oil tanks).
- Identify associated pollutants, which can sometimes by accomplished by using MSDS.
- Evaluate emission rates through material usage records.
- Review operating practices and production rates.
- Evaluate established emission rates.
- Conduct emission testing, as a last resort—if emission test results are available, they may be used to determine PTE and actual emissions, provided that the tests are representative of current conditions at the facility.
Step 2. Evaluate the current performance of control equipment
- Review vendor information (operating/maintenance manuals).
- Review operating parameters.
- Verify control efficiencies.
Step 3. Estimate actual and potential emissions from each source
- Include all emissions from each source, regardless of whether the emissions are released to the outside through a stack or similar conduit or through doors, windows and general purpose ventilating systems (i.e., fugitive emissions).
- Assume the maximum design capacity of the source, operating 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, for a total of 8,760 per year.
- Determine PTE = emission rate x 8,760 hours/year.
Step 4. Determine applicability of regulations
- Follow Clean Air Act Amendments.
- Follow state regulations.
- Establish a good state regulatory contact for information.
- Because most air programs are administered at a state and local level, secure a copy of state and local regulations.