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Nebraska is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is bordered by six other states and is completely landlocked. In 2019, the estimated population was just less than 2 million people. It is bisected by several rivers such as the Missouri, the Platte and the Niobrara rivers.
In early 2021, the quality of air varied considerably throughout the state. The cleanest city was Gretna with a US AQI figure of just 3, whereas the least clean was Bellevue with a US AQI figure of 53.
Towards the end of April 2021, a virtual event called the Odours and Air Pollutants 2021 will be staged online. The main aim of this Virtual Event is to interact online and experience innovative topics, virtual peer-to-peer networking opportunities, and informative sessions from forward-thinking leaders. They intend to hold a Q and A session over Zoom as a way of complete interaction.
The only real way to effectively reduce air pollution within the city is to reduce the amount of traffic on the streets. Their combustion engines are the main cause of carbon dioxide and PM2.5 pollutants. Add to this the wear and abrasion of tyres and brakes which considerably adds to the fine particulate matter entering the atmosphere.
Private cars and motorbikes are so popular because of their convenience, it will take a huge concerted effort to break this long-established habit. Perhaps the way forward would be the use of electric vehicles which still offer personal convenience but without the high level of pollution.
Public transport needs to be reasonably priced and convenient before it stands a chance of being able to take residents out of their cars.
The local authorities need to be looking at replacing their public transport vehicles with cleaner ones that use sustainable energy.
As with most large cities in the 21st century, the main source of air pollution comes from the emissions from vehicles as they pass through the cities. The next main source is from industry and power production.
Seasonally, Nebraska suffers from the effects of wildfires in neighbouring regions and states. The Air Quality Index can rise sharply in a very short space of time due to the huge amount of pollutants carried within the smoke. The AQI score given to "unhealthy" air is 151 to 200. On that particular morning the air quality in Omaha was listed at 191. A reading of 201 would put it in the "very unhealthy" category. Strong winds push the smoke from prairie-grass burn-offs in Kansas into eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. Kansas cattle ranchers burn off their pastures to encourage more robust growth of next year’s crop. The ranchers usually perform these fires between mid-March and Mid-April each year.
Prior to COVID-19, nearly one in four Americans resided in counties with poor air quality. While ozone-related pollutants are the most common cause of poor air quality, many Americans are also exposed to a variety of other common pollutants such as particle pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitric oxides (NOx) and lead (Pb).
While a large number of Americans are still living in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution, conditions have improved in recent decades. Through EPA efforts and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the US has seen a gradual improvement in air quality and a decline in the emissions of common pollutants since 1970. Carbon dioxide emissions have also shown small reductions since 2010. Such improvements have occurred even with steady increases in the gross domestic product (GDP), travel, total population and energy consumption.
More and more people are aware of the consequences of breathing polluted air and are actively taking steps to reduce it. Changing to a cleaner source of power production that does not use fossil fuel is a step in the right direction. Low emission fuels and the use of renewable combustion-free power has helped clean up the power generation efforts. We are seeing more and more Electric vehicles on the city streets as local authorities are providing more charging points to encourage their use. Cleaner technologies are being used for industrial discharges which clean the emissions before release into the atmosphere. More and more items are now being recycled as technology improves.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set and review National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common outdoor air pollutants (also known as “criteria” air pollutants): nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground-level ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), and lead (Pb).
Four of these pollutants, which are nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead emit directly from a variety of sources. Ozone is not directly emitted but is formed when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight. PM can be emitted, or it can be formed when emissions of NOx, sulphur oxides (SOx), ammonia, organic compounds, and other gases react in the atmosphere.
Through various programs, the local authorities monitor for criteria pollutants. One such program is the Ambient Air Monitoring Program. Through this program, air quality samples are collected to judge the attainment of ambient air quality standards, to prevent or alleviate air pollution emergencies, to observe pollution trends throughout regions, and to evaluate the effects of urban, land-use, and transportation planning relating to air pollution. There are other important types of pollution monitoring programs; two of which are Enhanced Ozone Monitoring and Air Pollution Monitoring. Armed with this information will give a clearer picture as to what might be required in the future.
Any area that consistently shows higher than average figures is required to submit a plan indicating their intentions as to how to reduce the figures to a more acceptable level.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that, contrary to what was previously believed to be true, people's health is greatly affected by higher levels of ground-level ozone and particulate matter.
Scientific evidence indicates that lung damage that is caused by prolonged exposure to ozone poses the greatest health risk. Averaging ozone levels for eight hours provides a higher level of protection, especially for children and those adults who spend a significant portion of their time working or playing outdoors which is a group that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of ozone.
The standard for airborne particulates up to 10 microns in diameter (PM10) remains in effect. But now, EPA says that air pollution with smaller particles measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) is also a major health concern. Breathing air polluted with fine particles can have detrimental health effects which could include premature death and an increase in respiratory illnesses.
Ground-level ozone (O3) is a colourless, odourless pollutant that is formed by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight. The main sources of VOCs and NOx are mobile sources which include cars, trucks and buses plus farm equipment and construction equipment.
Excess ozone exposure could lead to the worsening of asthma, heart and lung disease. It can be damaging to deep parts of the lungs, even after symptoms such as a cough or sore throat go away.
It also decreases resistance to infection which, in turn, may lead to extreme fatigue.