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Community Resources

Basic Air Quality Information

Air pollution is a general term used to describe undesirable amounts of particulate or gaseous matter in the atmosphere. Air pollution can be natural or human-made. It occurs naturally during volcano eruptions, forest fires, or dust storms.

However, during the past hundred years, air pollution created by humans has become a major, persistent problem. The air we breathe in many U.S. cities is being polluted by activities such as driving cars and trucks; burning coal, oil, and other fossil fuels; and manufacturing chemicals. Air pollution can even come from smaller, everyday activities such as dry cleaning, filling your car with gas, and degreasing and painting operations. These activities add gasses and particles to the air we breathe. When these gases and particles accumulate in the air in high enough concentrations, they can harm us and our environment. More people in cities and surrounding counties means more cars, trucks, industrial and commercial operations, and generally means more pollution.

In California, some of our cities are among the smoggiest urban areas in the country. We can see some air pollutants such as the reddish-brown haze in smog in our major cities. However, other air pollutants, including some of the most dangerous, are invisible yet very small amounts of these pollutants can cause serious health and environmental problems. Air pollution damages crops, reduce property values and is harmful to humans - especially children and the elderly. In addition, a majority of the state's population resides in low-lying basins where air pollutants tend to persist.

In Humboldt, Del Norte, and Trinity counties, the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District works with the state California Air Resources Board (ARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve and protect air quality in our region.