Air Pollution & Your Health
Our long-term vision is for all people to benefit from clean healthy air all the time, everywhere. To achieve this, we target the largest sources of the most harmful pollutants in our region to protect public health.
Threat of Air Pollution
We believe all people would benefit from clean healthy air all the time, everywhere. In our region, particle pollution, smog, and air toxics pose the greatest risk to our well-being. Outdoor air pollution can cause heart attacks, asthma, strokes, cancer, and premature death. An estimated 1,100 people die each year in Washington State due to outdoor air pollution.
Because we are concerned about our climate we also focus on the reduction of greenhouse gases, which are the leading cause of climate change. In our region, climate change will likely lead to warmer, drier summers which increase levels of smog pollution, posing health risks to those with lung and heart diseases.
If you have plans to be active outdoors and are sensitive to air pollution, check the air quality forecast on our website.
Learn about how to construct a DIY air filter to help reduce particle levels in your home.
Wood Smoke & Your Health
Smoke from fireplaces, wood stoves, backyard and land-clearing burn piles and wildfires contains fine particle pollution, which is one of the most serious air quality problems in the Puget Sound region. Fine particles are tiny, microscopic pieces of pollution that can easily enter your bloodstream and cause breathing and heart problems. The health effects even from short-term exposure are serious, and include:
- Asthma attacks
- Heart attacks
- Premature death
Fine particle pollution is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and people with sensitive immune systems.
- How Wood Smoke Harms Your Health (PDF) - Washington State Department of Ecology
- Outdoor Air Quality - Washington State Department of Health
- Particle Pollution - American Lung Association
- Particle Pollution and Your Health - United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Smoke From Fires - Washington State Department of Health
- Wood Smoke - Your Health, Your Wallet and the Law (PDF)
Diesel Exhaust & Your Health
Breathing diesel exhaust can cause serious health problems. The tiny particles in diesel exhaust are highly toxic.
What Are the Health Effects of Diesel Exhaust?
Diesel exhaust represents 78% of the potential cancer risk from all air toxics in the Puget Sound area. It is also linked to respiratory and cardiovascular problems and premature death. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems or illnesses are especially vulnerable. Recent studies show people living near ports and roadways have higher exposures and health risk.
What Are the Main Sources of Diesel Exhaust?
The majority of diesel exhaust in the Puget Sound region comes from four transportation sectors:
- Maritime vessels/ships and equipment generate 23% of our region’s diesel exhaust. This sector consists all ocean-going and harbor vessels, as well as all marine/seaport-related activities, such as drayage trucks, switchyard locomotives, and cargo-handling equipment.
- Off-road equipment generates 39% of our region’s diesel exhaust. This sector includes construction equipment, aircraft-support equipment, and cargo-handling equipment* used at seaports and rail yards. Note: *For emissions inventory purposes, our agency includes cargo-handling equipment as part of the maritime sector and not the off-road sector.
- On-road vehicles generate 34% of our region’s diesel exhaust. This sector includes cars, trucks, vans, buses, waste haulers, and emergency-response vehicles.
- Rail generates 3% of our region’s diesel exhaust. This sector consists of locomotives that transport goods and people, as well as those that sort cargo within a rail yard.
How Are Diesel Emissions Being Reduced?
A combination of regulatory and voluntary measures are underway to reduce diesel emissions from the transportation sectors. This includes our Diesel Solutions program, and working with regional, national and international partners.