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PM2.5 concentration in Moscow air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Monday, Feb 19
Good 4 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 20
Good 3 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 21
Good 4 AQI US
Good 5 AQI US
|Friday, Feb 23
Good 7 AQI US
|Saturday, Feb 24
Good 10 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 10 AQI US
|Monday, Feb 26
Good 5 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Good 4 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 28
Good 4 AQI US
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Moscow is a city in northern Idaho situated near the state border with Washington. In 2010 a census stated the population to be approximately 24,000 people. The latest census which was conducted in 2019 showed an increase to 25,500 residents. It is the county seat and the largest city in Latah County. As such it is a commercial and agricultural hub.
According to figures released by IQAir.com for the middle of 2021, it can be seen that Moscow was enjoying a period of “Good” quality air with a US AQI reading of just 14. This United States Air Quality Index number is an internationally used set of metrics supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is used to compare the quality of air in different cities throughout the world using comparable standards. It is calculated by using the levels of the six most commonly found pollutants. If measurements are not available for all six, then a level is calculated using what information there is. In the case of Moscow, the only pollutant recorded was that of PM2.5 which was just 3.5 µg/m³. With a level as low as this, doors and windows can safely be opened to allow fresh air to circulate the rooms in the house. Needless to say, all forms of outdoor activity can be enjoyed without fear of air pollution and the detrimental effects it has on the body.
Air quality can be affected by many variables therefore it can be expected to change on an almost daily basis.
The annual monthly figures were published and it can be seen that the worst quality air was experienced in September when the average figure was recorded as being 49.2 µg/m³. This classified it as being in the “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” category. Figures need to be between 35.5 and 55.4 µg/m³ to be categorized as such. The following month of October saw a marked improvement when the figure recorded was 11.1 µg/m³. This allowed it to fall into the “Good” category with figures between 10 and 12 µg/m³. For the remaining 10 months, Moscow attained the target figure set by the World Health Organization (WHO) of 10 µg/m³ or less. Overall, the monthly figures were extremely good with January returning a very low reading of just 3 µg/m³. The first six months of the year returned similar readings, the highest one being 4.3 µg/m³ in March. Numbers slightly increased during July with 5.4 µg/m³ and again in August with 8.6 µg/m³, before the huge increase in September. November and December saw the figures in decline once more with 7.1 and 3.8 µg/m³, respectively.
Historically, air pollution records have been held since 2017 when the WHO target figure of 7.7 µg/m³ was seen. This continued to decline for the next two years; 5.4 µg/m³ in 2018 and 3.6 µg/m³ in 2019. However, in 2020 the figure rose to 9.3 µg/m³ which was quite unusual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most other places were reporting better quality air due to the forced lack of vehicles using the roads and a decrease in movement with public transport too. Some non-essential factories and production units were also temporarily closed. This meant fewer emissions from their chimneys and therefore less pollution.
The main source of air pollution seems to be from wildfires which are unfortunately quite common at this time of year. Some occur naturally by lightning, but others are due to the carelessness of people who, unbeknown to them, inadvertently start them.
In mid-July, the local newspaper reported that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality extended an air pollution forecast and Caution to notify residents of Latah County and other north-central Idaho counties of degraded air quality because of wildfire smoke. Air quality is in the moderate category and is forecast to remain in the moderate to unhealthy categories for the next few days. To the majority of people, air quality is acceptable in the moderate category and will make little difference to their daily routines. However, for some pollutants, there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are extra sensitive to air pollution.
Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles (PM2.5). These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into the lungs. They can cause a range of health problems, from burning eyes and a runny nose to aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases. Exposure to particle pollution is even linked to premature death.
They went on to report that there are currently 100s of acres of fires burning uncontrollably in and around the northern part of the state. Smoke is also blowing in from fires in neighboring Montana.
When, and if, the air quality slips into the “Unhealthy” category, most people should avoid outside exertion and are advised to stay indoors if possible. This is especially necessary for those who are sensitive to poor air quality.
Coal and oil have driven economic growth in many countries, but their unabated combustion in power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles is a major cause of outdoor pollution which can be linked to around 3 million premature deaths annually. Coal is responsible for around 60 percent of global combustion-related sulfur dioxide emissions which is a major cause of respiratory illnesses and a precursor of acid rain. Fuel used for transport, first and foremost diesel, generates more than half the nitrogen oxides emitted globally, which can trigger respiratory problems and the formation of other hazardous particles and pollutants including ozone. The impact of urban vehicular emissions is made worse because the pollutants are discharged at ground level and not from the top of chimneys where they could be blown away.
Every year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution also called soot. Both ozone and particle pollution are very dangerous to public health and can greatly increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage and developmental and reproductive harm.
Particle pollution is comprised of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and worse.
Across the nation, the report from The American Lung Association’s State of the Air found continued improvement in air quality, but more than 40 percent of Americans, which is approximately 133.9 million still live in counties that have unhealthy levels of ozone and/or particle pollution.
It was stated that climate change increasing the air pollution problems. Warmer temperatures which are directly linked to climate change increase the frequency and severity of weather patterns, drought and wildfire. Wildfires, in particular, contributed to the high number of days with unhealthy particle pollution in some areas, including those in Idaho.
Each state is required to implement ozone standards by controlling air pollution from emission sources. This plan is called the State Implementation Plan or SIP and generally will include; air quality monitoring, air quality modeling, emission inventories and control strategies together with all necessary documentation.
Ozone is one of the six “criteria air pollutants”, together with particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead.
Tropospheric, or ground-level ozone, is not emitted directly into the air but is produced by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This happens when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants and other sources chemically react in the presence of sunlight. Ozone is most likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in urban environments, but can still reach high levels during colder months. Ozone can also be transported long distances by wind, so even rural areas can experience high ozone levels. The worst time of day for ozone pollution is during the early part of the afternoon when the sunlight is at its strongest.
The groups of people most at risk from breathing air containing ozone include those with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma. Children, older adults and people who are active outdoors, especially outdoor workers are more vulnerable than younger healthy people.
Children are at the greatest risk from exposure to ozone because their lungs are still developing and they are more likely to be active outdoors when ozone levels are high, which increases their exposure. Children are also more likely than adults to have asthma. They are also closer to the ground where the polluted air is more concentrated.
The health effects from breathing in ozone can vary but it often causes coughing together with a sore scratchy throat. It makes it more difficult to breathe deeply and may cause pain when taking a deep breath. It makes the lungs more susceptible to infection. Lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis are aggravated because of ozone pollution and often are more frequent.
PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution): the name for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope. These are the more dangerous of the two.
These particles come in many different sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals. Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires, but most form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.
Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they bypass the body’s defense mechanism and can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Some particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter can get deep into the lungs and some may even get into the bloodstream via the alveoli which are the tiny air sacs found at the base of the bronchial tubes.
PM pollution also has adverse effects on the environment such as making lakes and streams acidic, changing the nutrient balance in coastal waters and large river basins, depleting the nutrients in the soil and damaging sensitive forests and farm crops. It can also affect the diversity of ecosystems and contribute to acid rain.
Even strong, healthy people can experience health problems from breathing polluted air including respiratory irritation or breathing difficulties during exercise or strenuous outdoor activities. The actual risk of adverse effects depends on the current health status, the pollutant type and concentration, and the length of the exposure to the polluted air.
High levels of air pollution can cause immediate health problems such as adding stress to the heart and lungs, which must work harder to supply the body with the level of oxygen that it needs. High levels can also cause irreparable damage to lung tissue and the respiratory system.
Long-term exposure has different outcomes such as the accelerated aging of the lungs, the loss of lung capacity and reduced functions. Diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly cancer can develop much more quickly.
Of course, some groups of people are more vulnerable to poor quality air than others. Individuals with pre-existing heart disease, coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure as well as those suffering from asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD are greatly affected and should take extra precautions.
3 Data sources