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Release Date: 6/17/1997
Contact Information: Randy Wittorp, U.S. EPA, (415)744-1589

     (San Francisco) -- In a step to protect public health in Clark County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes to reclassify the region’s carbon monoxide levels from moderate to serious. This action is based on an extensive review of air monitoring data from the Las Vegas Valley and will require additional strategies to reduce carbon monoxide pollution.  The region will need to meet the health standard by December 31, 2000.

     The health standard for carbon monoxide is within reach in Las Vegas -- a nine percent reduction should hit the target, said Felicia Marcus, EPA regional administrator.   EPA will work closely with the air district to help develop additional, cost-effective strategies to cut air pollution, so that people in this beautiful desert region can breathe the clean air they deserve.

     There are two health standards for carbon monoxide.  The Las Vegas Valley meets the one hour standard of 30 parts per million, but has not met the lower eight hour average standard of nine parts per million.  The Clean Air Act allows one exceedance at each monitoring site per year. It also requires two consecutive years of compliance to be classified a clean attainment region.

     As a moderate area, Clark County’s deadline to meet the carbon monoxide standard was December 31, 1995.  After being granted a one year extension, the standard still had not been met on December 31, 1996.  The Clean Air Act requires EPA to reclassify all moderate areas to serious if they missed their deadline.  As a serious area, Clark County now has until December 31, 2000 to meet the carbon monoxide standard by coming up with additional measures.

     Serious regions must revise their State Implementation Plan to include further pollution reduction strategies and show that the region will meet the health standard with those measures in place.  The plan must also include a growth forecast for the number of miles people drive with transportation control strategies that offset carbon monoxide increases from rising driving rates. Controls on motor vehicle emissions provide the greatest benefit since cars are the largest source of carbon monoxide, followed by wood smoke.

     Carbon monoxide is a serious public health concern and is one of six pollutants covered by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Carbon monoxide is absorbed into the bloodstream, reducing oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and tissues.  Those who suffer with cardiovascular disease are susceptible to the health threats of carbon monoxide.  Yet even healthy individuals are affected by relatively low carbon monoxide levels and may experience visual impairment, reduced work capacity, and poor learning ability.

     Since the adoption of the national standards in 1971, air pollution across the nation has dropped significantly.  Nationally, average carbon monoxide concentrations decreased 37 percent between 1986 and 1995.  The Las Vegas region will need to reduce carbon monoxide levels by about nine percent to meet the health standard.