|3||Charles Town, West Virginia|
|7||River Ridge, Louisiana|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
3:17, Mar 8
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 14 US AQI||PM2.5|
|PM2.5|| 3.3 µg/m³|
|Open your windows to bring clean, fresh air indoors|
|Enjoy outdoor activities|
|Thursday, Mar 4|
Good 30 US AQI
|Friday, Mar 5|
Good 30 US AQI
|Saturday, Mar 6|
Good 36 US AQI
Good 42 US AQI
|Monday, Mar 8|
Good 18 US AQI
|Tuesday, Mar 9|
Good 14 US AQI
|Wednesday, Mar 10|
Good 13 US AQI
|Thursday, Mar 11|
Good 6 US AQI
|Friday, Mar 12|
Good 8 US AQI
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In recent years, Las Vegas air quality has averaged a “good” US AQI rating, indicating that residents generally breathe air that poses little to no risk to health. Despite optimistic annual averages, daily fluctuations are a cause for concern. In 2019, Las Vegas failed to meet federal attainment levels for daily ozone and PM2.5 levels, meaning that the number of unhealthy days for each pollutant was in excess of 3.2 days. From 2016 to 2018, there was a weighted average of 30.2 days of unhealthy ozone, and 4.3 days of unhealthy PM2.5.1 As a result of this “severe nonattainment”, Las Vegas was rated an “F” for both daily PM2.5 and ozone levels.
Ozone is a prevalent gas pollutant formed in the atmosphere when volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides react in sunlight. These compounds are commonly released by motor vehicles and the oil and gas industry. Since heat and abundant sunshine are necessary to create ozone, and hotter climates accelerate ozone formation, hot urban climates are often prone to elevated ozone levels. Las Vegas, as one of the sunniest and hottest urban climates in the United States, has long struggled to reduce ozone levels, especially against the backdrop of a booming population.2
Clark County, of which Las Vegas is the county seat, has never met attainment levels for ozone.1 2014 to 2016 was the closest the city ever got, when ozone levels were more than 6 times the federal allowance. Out of 229 metropolitan areas included in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, the Las Vegas-Henderson area ranked 9 for worst ozone pollution nationally. Las Vegas’s unhealthy ozone pollution affects everyone. The most common health effects of breathing high levels of ozone include chest pain, coughing, airway inflammation, and difficulty breathing.
Sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung disease tend to be disproportionately hurt by nonattainment levels. Clark County has 1,292,764 residents classified as sensitive to air pollution, out of a total population of 2,231,647 residents – more residents are labeled sensitive in Clark than not sensitive. These individuals are more likely to experience severe adverse health effects and hospitalizations from heightened ozone levels.
In Las Vegas, particle pollution is of lesser concern than ozone, though it still poses risks to residents. Las Vegas’s location in the Mojave desert makes the location more prone to windswept dust, including PM2.5 and PM10. Other sources include transportation and construction, of which there is a considerable amount owing to Las Vegas’s fast growth. PM2.5 is the smaller and more dangerous of the measured particle pollution criteria pollutants. Las Vegas is the most polluted city for fine particle air pollution in Nevada (6.0 μg/m3), followed by Sparks (5.6 μg/m3) and Gardnerville (5.3 μg/m3). Every month in 2019, however, still met World Health Organization (WHO) levels for PM2.5 pollution (10 μg/m3), and 2019’s averaged annual PM2.5 concentration of 6 μg/m3 was well under the WHO target for annual exposure. Health experts caution that while meeting PM2.5 targets is important for reducing health risks, no level of PM2.5 has been shown to be free of risk.
Las Vegas daily pollution levels for PM2.5 from 2016 to 2018 averaged a weighted 4.2 days of unhealthy air, only slightly exceeding the federal standard of 3.2 days. This number has been gradually increasing in recent years since 2014, however, showing cause for concern. Las Vegas air quality had previously been in attainment for daily PM2.5 from 2002 to 2014.
The long-term trends from 2000 to 2019 indicate subtle improvements in Las Vegas ozone and annual PM2.5 averages. Progress has not been a straight line, however, as numerous years have shown increase in pollution levels.
Understanding the full picture is more complex than simply analyzing Las Vegas AQI for annual average pollution levels. While average pollution levels in the last three years have shown improvements, Las Vegas’s number of days qualifying as “unhealthy” for PM2.5 and ozone has been on the rise since 2016.
For the 12-year stretch from 2004 to 2016, Clark County met daily attainment levels for PM2.5. Only in recent years have daily PM2.5 levels increased to result in the city no longer attaining prescribed levels. These increases come despite improving average annual PM2.5 levels.
Ozone has also increased in recent years, from a weighted average of 20.3 unhealthy days from 2014 to 2016, to 30.2 unhealthy days from 2016 to 2018. Complicating the problem of reaching ozone attainment, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented a more stringent ozone standard of 70 ppb (as opposed to the previous requirement of 75 ppb) in 2015.3 Since ozone is not emitted directly, but rather formed in the atmosphere from other pollutants, it can be more difficult to control, especially against rising temperatures that have resulted from climate change. Transportation emissions, which emit the majority of precursor pollutants, should be targeted.
Cleaner, more fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles offer an opportunity to drive Las Vegas’s pollution levels down further. Currently, only 1 to 2 percent of vehicles sold in Nevada are electric.4 Governor Steve Sisolak moved to implement more stringent auto emission standards following a precedent set by California, setting new tailpipe emission standards effective as of 2024 and requiring car dealers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles. The plan has been devised to specifically help tackle Las Vegas’s worsening air quality problem.
High temperatures, minimal precipitation, and a fast-growing population set the backdrop to Las Vegas’s unhealthy air quality. Transportation, construction, and industry emissions, meanwhile, are the direct culprits for emitting harmful levels of PM2.5 and ozone precursor pollutants into Las Vegas air. Together, these effects combine to create ideal circumstances for ozone formation and prevalent PM2.5 as well as challenges to clearing the skies with precipitation and wind.
Las Vegas is the most populated city in Nevada and has experienced considerable growth since the 1990s. Between 1990 and 2000, the population increased by 85%, nearly doubling in size.5 The city’s status as the Entertainment Capital of the World brings in tourists from near and far: Las Vegas frequently ranks among the most visited tourist destinations in the world. With a booming population and tourism industry, Las Vegas is significantly impacted by transport emissions and construction activity.
Normally, pollution is dispersed into the atmosphere or tamped down by weather effects, such as rain and wind. Rainfall in Las Vegas, however, is scarce. On average, Las Vegas gets 4.2 inches of rainfall dispersed over 21 rainy days.6 As a result, pollution removal from rain (especially particulate matter) is rare. Las Vegas’s winter experiences very mild winds and a weather phenomenon referred to as a temperature inversion, which traps pollution near the ground. As a result of these weather effects, Las Vegas’s most polluted months are in the winter. In 2018 and 2019, December, January and November were respectively the city’s most polluted.
Lower-income neighborhoods, such as those near the airport, power plants, and major roadways, tend to suffer some of the worst air quality in Las Vegas. Use the air pollution map of Las Vegas to understand local variances across the city.
+ Article Resources
 State of the Air – 2019. (2019).
 Wilson M. (2019, March 10). Is Las Vegas doomed to poor air quality? Not necessarily, experts say.
 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2020). 2015 Revision to 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) related documents.
 Lochhead C. (2020, June 22). Nevada adopting stricter car pollution standards.
 Census. (2000). Population change and distribution.
 World Climate. (2020). Average Weather Data for Las Vegas, Nevada.