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(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
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| 15 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Taos air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Saturday, Feb 24
Good 22 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 25 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 11 AQI US
Good 15 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Good 5 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 28
Good 5 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 29
Good 5 AQI US
|Friday, Mar 1
Good 4 AQI US
|Saturday, Mar 2
Good 4 AQI US
|Sunday, Mar 3
Good 4 AQI US
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Taos is a town in Taos County in the north-central region of New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is not a large city according to a 2010 census which declared the population to be approximately 6,000 people.
During the middle of 2021, Taos was going through a period of “Moderate” air quality with a US AQI reading of 57. This United States Air Quality Index number is calculated using the levels of six of the most commonly found air pollutants, namely, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and both sizes of particulate matter, being PM2.5 and PM10. It can be used as a standard when comparing air quality in other cities around the world. If data is unavailable for all 6 pollutants, a figure can still be calculated by using what figures there are. The only record available in July 2021 was PM2.5 which was 12.7 µg/m³. The World Health Organization (WHO) has a recommended level of 10 µg/m³, so with this figure, it is not at a very extreme level.
With pollution at this level, the given advice would be to stay indoors and close all doors and windows to prevent the ingress of more dirty air. An air purifier would be beneficial if one is available. Avoid exercising outside until the quality improves and if venturing outside is unavoidable, then wearing a good quality face mask is essential. The table that is published at the top of this page should help with that decision or download the AirVisual app for constant updates as to the state of the air.
Looking back at the figures released on the IQAir site it can be seen that the winter months of December and January were the months with the worst air quality. The figures were 16.9 µg/m³ and 14.4 µg/m³, respectively which classified the level as being “Moderate” with figures between 12.1 and 35.4 µg/m³. During the month of October, the air quality was classified as being “Good” with a figure of 10.1 µg/m³, a mere 0.01 away from the WHO target figures of 10 µg/m³. For the remaining nine months of the year, Taos achieved the WHO target figure of 10 µg/m³ or less. The best month for air quality was in May when the figure recorded was only 3.5 µg/m³.
Historically, records pertaining to air pollution have been kept since 2017 when the WHO target figure was achieved with a figure of 4.2 µg/m³. A slight decline followed in the next two years with readings of 6.4 µg/m³ and 6.9 µg/m³, respectively. It worsened in 2020 with a reading of 8.3 µg/m³. This figure is quite surprising because of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 situation. Many vehicles were temporarily unused as their drivers were not required to work from the office, instead they were furloughed and allowed to work from home. This had the effect of drastically reducing pollution within the city center. Many small factories and non-essential production units were also closed which again lead to an improvement in air quality. Yet, for some reason, Taos recorded the worst annual average figure since records began. We await the 2021 figures to see what the trend will be!
New Mexico has a methane waste and pollution problem. It costs millions of dollars, annually in lost revenue that could be put to better use. Methane is a by-product that is released when oil is being extracted from the ground. Some states require this to be captured and disposed of in a non-pollutive manner. However, New Mexico does not have this legislation, therefore it is just allowed to escape into the surrounding environment. Some companies burn the ensuing gas as it leaves the ground in a process known as flaring. It also escapes via leaky pipes and faulty equipment.
Methane is a valuable energy source being the primary component of natural gas which is commonly used as a source of energy for many New Mexicans. Every year, it is estimated that companies waste over $275 million worth of natural gas and therefore the state loses the revenue from the taxes. With a figure as high as this, the tax alone would be around $40 million which could fund public education.
Oil and gas companies need to be held accountable with common sense methane and air pollution rules that protect air quality and the climate. A state methane rule is a win-win situation that reduces pollution, increases funding for education, and encourages job creation in New Mexico’s growing methane mitigation industry. New Mexico is already home to 11 companies that specialize in methane mitigation and this industry is primed to provide even more highly skilled jobs.
The scary fact behind this is that here in New Mexico, oil and gas operations release more than 1 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere, every year. That has the same short-term impacts as 22 coal-fired power plants or 28 million automobiles.
The American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air 2020” report, which studied ozone and particle pollution levels across a three-year period between 2016 and 2018, found air quality across the country has worsened since last year’s report, and New Mexico is no exception. General climate change is mainly to blame because it increases the amount of particulate matter in the air. It has been said that the past five years have been the warmest since records began. As temperatures rise, more droughts, more dust storms and more wildfires occur, all of which contribute to the unhealthy air quality that is recorded by air quality monitors.
When there’s no rain to saturate, the dust becomes very fine particles, and when that’s picked up into the air, it becomes particle pollution. This can be PM2.5, so it’s extremely fine particles that lodge very deep down into the lungs and is responsible for a lot of the poor health impacts.
Much of the data regarding PM pollution is missing from the annual reports which compile data using the state quality air monitors. The problem is that the sites chosen for these monitors are based on population levels which are not necessarily where the high levels of pollution are. In some counties, the monitors are calibrated to measure PM10 particles which are much bigger than PM2.5.
Ozone pollution levels also contribute to poor air quality in New Mexico. Ozone is the product of nitrous oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being exposed to sunlight and warmer temperatures. Vehicle emissions, which include VOCs, are considered the main source of ozone pollution, but energy industry activities, such as coal-burning and oil and gas production, also contribute to high ozone pollution levels.
Latest reports show that residents who live in New Mexico’s top oil and gas producing counties are exposed to more days of unhealthy ozone levels than some of the state’s largest cities.
There are currently seven counties in New Mexico whose air quality exceeds 95 percent of the federal ozone standard. The methane rule will target reducing ozone-forming pollutants in those seven counties: Bernalillo, Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, Rio Arriba and San Juan.
Reducing methane waste and pollution is a key step in addressing air pollution and climate impacts caused by oil and gas facilities. The new legislation is thought to ban the practice of routine venting and flaring which releases methane into the environment.
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) released a proposed rule in early May 2021, which will improve air quality by establishing innovative and actionable regulations to curb the formation of ground-level ozone in the state’s most affected regions. This proposal is also intended to reduce emissions of dangerous Greenhouse Gases. These new proposals will be more stringent than the current requirements as suggested by current Federal ones. This rule will not only hold industries accountable but will also spur innovation and greener practices in the oil and gas fields. The effect will be equivalent to taking eight million cars off the road every year. Once finalized, the new legislation will reduce emissions of ozone precursor pollutants which are volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen by nearly 260 million pounds annually and reduce methane emissions by over 851 million pounds.
The West is facing a new and serious fire threat as temperatures heat up again and moisture from the Southwest monsoon moves northward, triggering thunderstorms that unleash lightning but with very little rain. The dry lightning presents a heightened risk of new wildfires starting. The fire threat is emerging as a heatwave builds over the northern Rockies and southern Canada, where many serious blazes are already active. The tinder-dry conditions from the hot and dry weather, combined with possible dry lightning strikes, could result in a dangerous proliferation in fire activity. While monsoonal thunderstorms are common in summer in the West, especially in the mountains, the current level of flammability across the landscape is far above normal and breaking records in many areas. Relentless heat, on top of severe drought, has made fires much more likely to ignite and spread rapidly.
California has already seen 4,991 wildfires in 2021, up from 700 during the same period in 2020. Last year's fire season resulted in more than 30 deaths, large-scale evacuations and the devastation of more than 10,000 buildings. The apocalyptic scenes showed ash raining down parts of the west coast and smoke blotting out the sun and darkening the skies. Some cities experienced some of the worst air pollution on the planet. But California is not alone: wildfires have devastated more than 364,000 hectares of land in 12 states so far in 2021, especially in Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona.
Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a variety of adverse health conditions. Air pollution can increase the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Both short-term and long-term exposure to air pollutants has been associated with adverse health impacts. The most severe impacts affect people who are already sick. Children, the elderly and the poor are most susceptible. The most harmful pollutants for health, closely associated with excessive premature mortality, are fine PM2.5 particles that penetrate deep into the lungs.
Particulate matter (PM) is the term for particles that are suspended in the air, such as dust, soot, smoke and aerosol. Large amounts of particulate matter are typically emitted from sources such as diesel-fuelled vehicles, burning waste and crops as well as coal-fired power plants. Particles less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10) present a health problem because they can be inhaled and accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) are called "fine" particles and pose greater health risks. Due to their small size (about 1/30 the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deep in the lungs where they can transfer into the bloodstream via the alveoli.
Reducing the average annual concentration of PM10 from 70 to 20 µg/m³, and PM2.5 from 35 to 10 µg/m³ can achieve a 15 percent reduction in mortality risk, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
People who are most likely to suffer serious health problems from air pollution are:
High levels of air pollution can cause immediate health problems:
Prolonged exposure to polluted air can have permanent health effects: