This table shows all the locations in Michigan where ambient air monitoring was conducted in 2005.
Source: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
The crisp autumn air that so delights our senses is cleaner
today than it has been in decades, according to a report recently issued by the
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. This welcome news is yet another
reminder that prognosticators of eco-catastrophe are off the mark.
The annual air quality report consolidates a year’s worth of
monitoring across the state of six "criteria" pollutants designated by the
federal Clean Air Act. The law established standards for the maximum permissible
concentrations of the pollutants, and federal regulators track states’
compliance. The criteria pollutants are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide,
sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter.
This welcome news is yet another reminder that prognosticators of eco-catastrophe are off the mark.
The report shows that air pollution levels in Michigan
continued to decline in 2005 due to emissions reductions from vehicles, fuels,
power plants and manufacturers. Four of the criteria pollutants — carbon
monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide — registered "well below"
the federal standard, according to the report.
Levels of ozone and particulate matter also declined last
year, although Michigan is technically out of compliance for these pollutants.
Although all counties in the state had previously met the ozone standard,
stricter rules imposed in 2004 resulted in the reclassification of 25 Michigan
counties (as well as some 500 others nationwide). The state Department of
Environmental Quality has since requested that 16 counties be redesignated in
compliance for ozone.
Seven counties in Southeast Michigan also have been
designated by the EPA as out of compliance for particulate matter measuring 2.5
micrometers in diameter and less. But on Feb. 22, 2005, officials of the DEQ
submitted documentation to the EPA demonstrating that the counties of
Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Washtenaw are, in fact, in
attainment. Only Wayne County remains out of compliance, according to the
Summaries of the good news are as follows:
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Emissions of carbon monoxide have been reduced by 20 percent
since 1990. As of mid-1999, the entire state has been in attainment for CO.
Motor vehicles, including trucks and motorcycles, account for 69 percent of CO
emissions in the state. Another 28 percent is emitted from aircraft, marine
vessels, trains and off-road two- and four-stroke engines. Michigan’s industries
contribute only 2 percent of the total.
The average air quality concentration of lead is now 94
percent lower than in 1983. There are no longer any major sources of lead in
Michigan, and the average ambient levels are less than one-tenth of the federal
standard. Much of this reduction is attributed to the removal of alkylated lead
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
The ambient concentrations of NO2 in Michigan are less than
half of the federal standard. All areas in Michigan have been in attainment for
NO2 since 1978.
All Michigan counties are currently in attainment for the
original federal ozone standard. When data for Michigan’s ozone monitoring sites
is averaged for the 2003-2005 period, there are a total of 24 sites out of 27
that either met or fell below the newer, more restrictive standard. This marks a significant improvement from the 2001-2003 period, when only four sites met the tougher standard.
All areas of Michigan are in attainment for particulate
matter measuring between 2.5 and 10 micrometers (about 25 to 100 times thinner
than a human hair). State data also indicate that only Wayne County is in
nonattainment for particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
Nationwide, the largest source of SO2 is coal-burning power
plants. Most of the coal burned in Michigan contains low amounts of sulfur.
Levels of sulfur dioxide in Michigan have consistently registered well below the
Significant improvements in air quality have also been
achieved beyond Michigan’s borders. Nationwide, over the past 20 years, ambient
air concentrations of lead have plummeted 94 percent; carbon monoxide 57
percent; sulfur dioxide 50 percent and nitrogen oxides 25 percent. All this
despite a near doubling of vehicle miles traveled, as well as substantial growth
in the nation’s gross national product.
That hardly sounds like a nation on the verge of ecological
Diane S. Katz is director of science, environment and
technology policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and
educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint
in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center
are properly cited.