The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced recently that Knox County has been designated in attainment for two important National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS): the 1997 annual particulate matter (PM) 2.5 criteria and the 2006 24-hour PM 2.5 criteria. The annual designation is effective immediately; the 24-hour or daily designation is effective Sept. 27, 2017. The designation area, which includes Anderson, Blount, Knox and Loudon Counties, and a portion of Roane County, met the standards in December 2015 but was awaiting official EPA designation.
This designation is based on quality-assured, certified air quality data collected from 2013 to 2015 by Knox County Air Quality Management and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Studies have shown fine particulates, which are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller than the diameter of a human hair, can be a significant public health problem. Because of their small size, fine particulates can be inhaled into the deepest recesses of the lungs. People with heart or lung diseases, older adults and children are most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure. Particle pollution exposure has been connected to a variety of health issues, including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath; reduced lung function; irregular heartbeat; asthma attacks; heart attacks; and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Fine particulates are generated by motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires and some industrial processes.
The primary responsibility of Knox County’s Air Quality Management Division is to achieve and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in Knox County for all criteria pollutants designed to protect health and welfare. This is accomplished through several activities including the continuous monitoring of the ambient air; issuance of air quality health alerts; permitting of industrial air contaminant sources. The department also performs compliance and complaint investigations, issues residential open burning permits, and provides technical and educational services.
For more information on the Knox County Health Department’s Air Quality department, including how to obtain an open burning permit, click HERE.