Air quality in Nevada

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Nevada

LAST UPDATE (local time)

LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Nevada
Most polluted city ranking

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#cityUS AQI
1 Fernley

25

2 Pahrump

21

3 Enterprise

16

4 Henderson

16

5 Boulder City

14

6 Mesquite

14

7 Jean

13

8 Wadsworth

9

9 Summerlin South

3

10 Elko

2

(local time)

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LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Nevada
Cleanest city ranking

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#cityUS AQI
1 Battle Mountain

0

2 Beatty

0

3 Carson city

0

4 Fallon

0

5 Goldfield

0

6 Hawthorne

0

7 Incline Village

0

8 Indian Hills

0

9 Minden

0

10 Ranchos

0

(local time)

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How to best protect from air pollution?

Reduce your air pollution exposure in Nevada

What are the air pollution levels in Nevada?

Nevada is a state in the Western region of the United States. It shares land borders with five other states.

It is fondly known as “The Silver State” because of the importance of this metal in its past. Its estimated population in 2019 was just over 3 million people. Nearly three-quarters of Nevada's people live in Clark County, which contains the Las Vegas–Paradise metropolitan area.

Nevada consists largely of desert and semi-arid regions, much of it within the Great Basin. Areas south of the Great Basin are within the Mojave Desert.

Looking at a cross-section of 8 of the largest cities in Nevada, the measurements of air pollution for 2019 were all within the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target figure of less than 10 µg/m³. The lowest figure was measured in Jean where the figure was a very healthy 4.1 annual average. Looking back at the two previous years, it can be seen that the air quality is very stable without much variation between the cities, over the years.

Is there a strategy that can improve air quality in Nevada?

In a newly published report, it has been stated that air pollution due to ozone lead to 97 deaths, 114 hospitalisations and $900 million in health care costs in one year in Nevada. Clark Country experienced 35 days when the level of ozone was in excess of the government guidelines which was twice the number reported for the previous year. Many of those days occurred because of the particularly bad wildfire season in California. Ozone is always at a higher level during the summer months due to the higher temperatures, pollutants, wildfires and hot temperatures.

According to the Department of Air Quality, there has been a decrease in ozone levels of 12 per cent since 2007. Particulate Matter (PM2.5 and PM10) has also been reduced by 50 per cent since 2001 and carbon monoxide (CO) has been reduced by 80 per cent since 1982.

But after a poor report from the American Lung Association, people are reminded that complacency is not an option. Choosing public transport or carpooling, conserving energy at home and work, keeping car engines properly maintained and tyres properly inflated are just a few ways in which everybody can make a difference.

What are the sources of air pollution in Nevada?

The biggest problem with regards to air pollution in Nevada is ozone (O3). It is formed from the chemicals which are emitted from vehicle exhausts and combine with other substances under the strong ultra-violet light.

Another major cause for concern is the pollution caused by wildfires in adjoining counties.

The Las Vegas Metro Area ranks 10th for worst ozone, or smog, in the nation, and the Reno area ranks 10th for worst short-term particle pollution (PM2.5).

Can the quality of air in Nevada be improved?

Tens of millions of Americans experienced at least one day last year cloaked in wildfire smoke. Entire cities were enveloped, in some cases for weeks, as unprecedented wildfires tore across the Western States, causing increases in hospitalisations for respiratory emergencies and concerns about people's longer-term health.

These concerns are justifiable because it has been proven that tiny particles released in wildfire smoke are up to 10 times more harmful to humans than particles released from other sources, such as vehicle exhausts.

Overall, air pollution has been decreasing for several years but the same cannot be said for wildfires. They are certainly on the increase.

A local study found that during these times of high winds which push the polluted air, there was an obvious rise in hospitalisations of about 10 per cent.

There are a number of sources of PM2.5, including power plants and vehicles, but the findings indicate that PM2.5 from some may be more harmful than others.

It was said that there are restrictions that cover the emissions from vehicles and also from factory chimneys, but smoke from wildfires goes unregulated. It has been suggested that organic matter has been allowed to build up on the forest floors which creates a much stronger fire once it starts. The suggestion is to control this amount of debris by having controlled burns at more frequent intervals. But even with controlled fires, they still produce smoke which is unacceptable to most people.

What can be done to lessen the risk of poor air quality in Nevada?

Particle pollution is a major problem in Las Vegas. It consists 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 penetrate deeply into the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and may prove lethal. Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the clean-up of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.

How is the air pollution level in Nevada measured?

Air quality is measured using the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI works like a thermometer that measures from between 0 and 500 degrees. However, instead of showing changes in the temperature, the AQI is a way of showing changes in the amount of pollution in the air.

Air quality is a measure used to judge how clean the air is. It is very important to know the state of the air as it affects the health of everybody.

Earth’s atmosphere mainly comprises of two gases that are essential for life on Earth: nitrogen and oxygen.

However, airborne pollutants are also carried in the air that we breathe. The AQI measures and tracks the following five main components.

  • Ground-level ozone (O3)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • Airborne particles or aerosols or PM2.5/PM10

Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two air pollutants that pose the greatest risk to human health in the US. They are also the two main ingredients in smog which is a type of air pollution that reduces visibility, (a mixture of smoke and fog).

Instruments in situ on the ground and satellites orbiting Earth collect information about what is in the air.

For example, satellites in NOAA’s GOES-R (short for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R) Series monitor the particle pollution in our atmosphere. Another similar satellite called the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) also collects this information. These satellites are able to measure smoke particles from wildfires; airborne dust during dust and sand storms; urban and industrial pollution; and ash from erupting volcanoes.

Some of the satellites provide information every five minutes of each day, whereas others provide much higher resolution images, but they only provide these once a day.

What is the environmental policy in Nevada?

The environmental policy aims to conserve natural resources by balancing environmental protection with economic growth, property rights, public health and energy production. This is done mainly through laws and regulations passed at all governmental levels and influenced by many stakeholders with different agendas.

The Clean Air Act was brought into force in 2015 which is a federal law aimed at retaining air quality. It instructs all states to implement approved plans to reduce air pollutants. Nevada has 106 units listed under its control.

Mercury and other air toxins are under the strict control of Nevada State. The emissions from coal and oil-fired power plants are monitored closely to ascertain the levels within their emissions. There were 6 such plants in Nevada in 2015 that came under the mercury control standards.

Ozone is another pollutant that is monitored by the state. In 2015 the agreed standards of ozone which is emitted into the air was lowered. The new figure will take effect in 2025, so companies will have had 10 years in which to comply with the new regulations.

Carbon dioxide is another pollutant that needs to be monitored with a view to reducing its production levels. If the Clean Air plan is fully implemented then the reduction of carbon dioxide will be on target by 2030. The target is to reduce it by 22.41 per cent.

Is Nevada adopting stricter car pollution standards?

The governor of Carson City announced in June 2020 that it is their intention to adopt the strict auto-pollution standards that are currently enforced in California.

Basically, new exhaust pipe emissions will be introduced in 2024 together with a requirement that dealerships offer a pre-determined percentage of zero-emission vehicles.

These new regulations are to be introduced in an attempt to reduce the levels of ozone in the large metropolitan areas of Las Vegas and Reno.

Nevada’s transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state and a major contributor to dangerous air pollution.

The transportation sector is responsible for approximately 35 per cent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, with more than half of those emissions coming from passenger cars and trucks. Only 1 to 2 per cent of vehicles sold in Nevada are zero-emission. It is hoped that this will change when dealerships are required to sell a certain percentage of these vehicles from 2025.

Further to this statement, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection announced plans to convene a virtual listening session on Clean Cars Nevada, an initiative that would provide Nevadans with more choices for low and zero-emission passenger cars and light-duty trucks offered at dealerships across the state beginning in 2024.

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