Many people think of air pollution as a big-city problem, but that’s not always the case. Ozone and particle pollution can be problems in rural areas – in both the summer and winter.
Ozone-forming pollution can travel long distances on the wind before reacting in the sun to form ozone. Ozone itself also can travel long distances, so even rural areas can have high ozone levels. And while ozone is a warm-weather pollutant in most areas, wintertime ozone episodes have been increasing in recent years in some western states.
Fine particle pollution can come from sources such as fires, tailpipes, or woodstove chimneys. But it also forms when emission from power plants, highway vehicle or industrial activities chemically react in the atmosphere. Depending on where you live, particles can be a problem at any time of year!
In the eastern half of the country, for example, fine particle pollution tends to be regional and can be transported hundreds of miles, affecting both urban areas and rural areas nearby. In areas such as the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast, residential wood smoke can cause particle pollution to be higher in the colder months. And in some areas of the Southwest, coarse particle pollution from spring and summer dust storms can make breathing difficult.
Keep track of air quality where you live: www.airnow.gov
This map shows NOAA's National Weather Service Air Quality Forecast Guidance.
Learn about nationwide air quality trends: http://www.epa.gov/airtrends