Air Quality 101

Criteria Pollutants and Air Toxics

Air pollution can be divided into two categories of criteria pollutants and air toxics. Within these two categories, there are overlapping sets of chemicals in federal and state programs.

-The pollutants in the top oval known as criteria pollutants and DEQ has worked to reduce them for the last 30 years. There are federal concentration standards for criteria pollutants. Various Oregon communities have had to reduce emissions to meet these standards. Particulate is the only standard we do not meet statewide. Oregon has come close to violating the ozone standard in several communities.

Air toxics (in the purple oval) are the many chemicals in addition to criteria pollutants which are known or suspected to cause serious health problems including cancer, nerve damage and respiratory irritation. There are no federal ambient standards for air toxics, but EPA regulates them through industrial controls that DEQ administers in a permitting process.

There are 187 air toxics listed by EPA in federal law. There are no standards for these pollutants, but industrial regulations require their control.

The blue oval shows that Oregon has chosen to supplement the federal framework by adopting clean air health goals or benchmarks for 52 air toxics measured or estimated to be present in our air. They are called Ambient Benchmark Concentrations or ABCs.
Lead is both a criteria pollutant and an air toxic.

Oregon Air Toxics Benchmarks are clean air health goals and measurement tools. They are not enforceable standards like the criteria pollutant levels, but they are very protective annual levels of air toxics that people, including more sensitive groups such as children or the elderly, could breathe continuously for a lifetime without adverse health effects.


PreviousNext