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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 41


Additional  Protected Natural Resources Indicators

38 - Greenhouse Gas Releases

39 - Drinking Water Quality

40 - Solid Waste Production

Air Pollution

Number of unhealthful days annually caused by ground level ozone, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide: Decreasing

  Things to think about 

A significant portion of New Jersey’s air pollution is emitted in other states and blows into our state. Changes in those out-of-state emissions are not within the direct control of our citizens or our state government. However, New Jersey has been a leader in trying to coordinate regional air pollution control efforts.

Ozone levels are strongly affected by weather conditions. Hot, sunny, windless days tend to exacerbate the ozone problem. The relatively cool summer of 1998 kept ozone levels down, as reflected in the infrequent number of days where ozone levels exceeded the health standard. This does not, however, necessarily indicate that the presence of air pollutants declined in 1998.

Note: See the Glossary for additional information on particulate matter and the Technical Appendix for a discussion on the relationship between the targets and the indicator.

Importance

Clean air to breathe is one of life’s absolute necessities. Although New Jersey’s air quality has improved significantly, it is still considered among the worst in the country for ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog, a chronic air quality problem with serious health effects in our state. "Particulate matter" (PM) are tiny particles of pollution that can lodge in people’s lungs and create respiratory problems. Carbon monoxide is a hazardous substance (deadly at high concentrations) produced when fossil fuels are burned for energy and especially when gasoline is burned in cars.

Economic

We pay for poor air quality in many ways. We pay to treat the illnesses it causes. Absenteeism caused by air pollution impacts school children and workers. Neighborhoods lose as property values fall in places where the air is bad. Workers and businesses lose when limits are imposed on new development because federal air quality standards are not met. Businesses lose also if shoppers and tourists are warned to stay indoors because of poor air quality. Air pollution can also have other economic effects such as crop damage or degradation of art, statues, buildings, and other materials.

Environmental

Poor air quality is a generally recognized public health threat. It is linked to significant long- and short-term health problems. These can include an increased incidence of asthma attacks, heart disease, and cancer risk. Air pollution can be detrimental to wildlife and ecosystems in the same way. In addition, contaminants can work their way up the food chain in ever-higher concentrations and interfere with natural systems. We have a good understanding that many of the factors increasing air pollution, such as cars traveling on new roads and development, also have severe impacts on ecosystems due to habitat loss.

Social

Severe air quality problems force people to stay indoors, preventing recreation and social activities. Some forms of air pollution also cause a loss of visibility or can cause unpleasant odors that undermine our quality of life. Air pollution can be concentrated in low-income and minority areas and, if so, represents an inequity in our society.

Knowledge Gaps

These data, based on the number of days health standards were exceeded, do not take into account changing air quality standards for particulates and ozone. This indicator does not measure all problem air pollutants.

Data Source: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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