Air Quality

About | Timeline | Stay in the Know! | Presentations

breathe-2-297824-mAir quality is important to our human and economic health. With the Midlands region threatened by “nonattainment” status, it has become paramount that proactive measures be taken for improving air quality and ensuring attainment with current and future national ambient air quality standards. This situation creates an ideal opportunity for the diverse stakeholders of the Midlands region to collaborate and formulate a regional action plan; hence, the development of the Midlands Air Quality Forum.

The Midlands Air Quality Forum was established by the Central Midlands COG to serve as a collaborative effort to reduce ground-level ozone and other forms of air pollution across the Central Midlands Region. Participation in the Forum presents an ideal opportunity for all stakeholders across the region to take proactive steps toward improving air quality, regardless of any designation by U.S. EPA for air pollution standards. Failure to act now could lead to serious public health and economic challenges. Poor air quality not only worsens existing respiratory problems, but also contributes to heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. Possible economic ramifications include the inability of municipalities to recruit new industries and limit the amount of funding available for major transportation projects.

Strong regional leadership in taking a cooperative, proactive approach will help to protect the health and quality of life of the many 500,000-plus citizens that live, work, and play in the Midlands.

For more information about the state of air quality in the Midlands, refer to the Midlands Air Quality Report (2007).


Ozone in the upper atmosphere is a beneficial and protective layer around the earth, but ground-level ozone is harmful air pollution that threatens our health, quality of life, and the region’s economic prosperity. Ground-level ozone is created when sunlight reacts with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOX). Reducing these emissions is necessary to reduce ground-level ozone formation.

Ozone Standard

The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). In the Greater Columbia and Central Midlands region, the primary pollutant of concern is ground-level ozone (aka “smog”). As of now, the Greater Columbia area and Midlands Region remain in attainment of the NAAQS

The ozone standard provides increased protection to the public, especially children and other at-risk populations, against a wide range of ozone induced health effects.

The national ozone standard is an 8-hr averaged standard and is calculated by averaging data over a 3-year time period. This average is taken from the 4th highest 8-hour average at each monitoring station. A violation occurs when the 3-year average of the 4th highest value is greater than .075 parts per million (ppm).

Areas not meeting the standard are not automatically designated non-attainment, rather an official course of action must occur. Specific requirements on how areas will meet the 8-hr standard are developed. All Central Midlands counties are currently in attainment. Click Here for more information concerning the Consequences of a Nonattainment Designation.

Local, national and even international TV meteorologists report an Air Quality Index. This index provides an easy-to-understand way to explain the quality of the air. Anything below a 100 Air Quality Index (AQI) is considered ‘healthy’ and and AQI above 100 is considered ‘unhealthy for certain groups’. The ozone AQI is based on the new 8-hr standard. When the AQI is above 100, it is an indication of an exceedance of the air quality standards.

Health Effects of Ozone

Ozone exposure may lead to:

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chest pain when inhaling deeply
  • Wheezing and Coughing

Long-term, repeated exposure to high levels of ozone may lead to large reductions in lung function, inflammation of the lung lining, and increased respiratory discomfort. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 5% – 20% of the total U.S. population has a susceptibility to the harmful effects of ozone air pollution.

Midlands Air Quality- What Can You Do?

Do Your Part to Clear Our Air

Take Actions during All Warm-Weather
(May through September)

AND especially on OZONE ALERT! Days


As an individual:

1. Drive less. Reduce #miles you drive by:

  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Carpooling
  • Riding the Bus
  • Telecommuting

2. Avoid long idle times. Turn off your car after 30 seconds
when not in traffic.

3. Replace gasoline yard tools with electric or hand tools.

4. Take actions that use non-hazardous components (e.g.,
to ward off pests inside & outside home).

5. Make your next vehicle a hybrid or other ultra-low
emission vehicle.

6. Purchase Energy Star appliances.

7. Fuel your car during evening hours (non-day light).

8. Avoid slow-burning, smoldering fires. They produce the
largest amount of pollution.

9. Use solar power for home and water heating.

10. Ignite charcoal barbeques with an electric probe or
other alternative to lighter fluid.

As a business:

11. Support Ozone Action Days (see

12. Provide a tax-free commuting benefit program for

13. Provide shower facilities and/or discount memberships
to employees who walk or bicycle to work.

14. Offer flexible work hours or telecommuting options.

15. Use retrofit technologies for diesel fleets.

16. Become a “Green Business” (see

17. Conduct an energy audit to reduce waste and cut cost.

18. Print documents with soy-based inks, which are less

19. Recycle print cartridges.

20. Use recycled paper.

For more information, call (803) 376-5390 or email [email protected].

Stay in the Know!

Knowing as much as you can about air pollution can empower you to make changes and help improve the air quality in your area! If you are interested in knowing more about air quality activities in the Columbia area, contact Gregory Sprouse by phone at (803) 376-5390 or by e-mail at [email protected].

airnowFor daily air quality forecasts and real-time air quality conditions in the Columbia area, visit This website is produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, news media, DHEC and other state agencies to report conditions for ozone and particle pollution.

enviroflash_logo_origEnviroFlash, a program provided by EPA, can send the ozone forecast to an email address or cell-phone as soon as the ground-level ozone forecast is made.

Additional Resources

Ozone Forecast
Ozone Information
Particulate Matter Information

Midlands Air Quality – Presentations

Midlands Air Quality Forum-December 11, 2009

Department Staff

Gregory Sprouse
Director, Research, Planning and Development

View the Midlands Air Quality Report


Our Partners: