Sustainable Air Quality

Air Quality

The Miami Valley’s air quality is the best it has been in 50 years. Transportation sources continue to be a significant contributor to our pollution and GHG inventory.

The Dayton Region, similar to most urban areas across Ohio and the nation, is working to maintain and improve healthy air quality on a continuing basis. Over the years industries have updated formula, changed processes, and realized efficiencies that have reduced air pollution emissions. Governments have invested in improved transportation infrastructure, more energy efficient buildings to reduce their emissions. Residents of the Miami Valley have taken common sense steps like keeping their cars tuned up and insulating their homes with the effect of both reducing pollution and saving money.

Download the Air Quality chapter. Throughout the Tool Kit look for the “BYG” tag for policies, programs, and projects that directly link to the DRG Bring Your Green government tracking platform.

The Issues

The Dayton Region, similar to most urban areas across Ohio and the nation, is working to maintain and improve healthy air quality on a continuing basis. Over the years industries have updated formula, changed processes, and realized efficiencies that have reduced air pollution emissions. Governments have invested in improved transportation infrastructure, more energy efficient buildings to reduce their emissions. And residents of the Miami Valley have taken common sense steps like keeping their cars tuned up and insulating their homes with the effect of both reducing pollution and saving money.

The data show that all this shared effort has really paid off. The Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (RAPCA) has been monitoring ambient air pollution in the Miami Valley since the 1970’s. The primary pollutants for which RAPCA monitors are ground level ozone and fine particulate matter, which they report daily according to the Air Quality Index scale (AQI). U.S. EPA and RAPCA data demonstrates that over the last three decades air quality in the Miami Valley has dramatically improved. The number of days for which AQI was in the unhealthy range (101 or above) in the Miami Valley has trended downward. Compared with 1976, in which there were 159 days when the AQI was at least Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (USG), in 2018 there were only four such days (Source: RAPCA).

Thanks to reduced industrial impacts and a more efficient transportation system, the Region is regularly experiencing the lowest levels of ambient pollution that RAPCA has ever measured. The Region today meets the lowest (strictest) federal air pollution standards that have ever been set. This is good news not only for our health, but for our Region’s economic development. It is not, however, a cause for complacency; efforts today to continue to improve air quality will help meet future, stricter federal standards.

Understanding ozone and fine particulate matter pollution (PM) is key to making decisions that improve air quality. Ground level ozone is a gas formed by the reaction of other pollutants in the presence of sunlight. Ozone is not directly emitted by cars or industry, but the precursor pollutants (oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic chemicals) do come from industry, transportation, utilities and even common products like paints and solvents. In higher concentrations ozone can cause health problems ranging from mild to severe. Exposure can lead to coughing, breathing difficulties, and lung damage that can make one more susceptible to lung infections, increase the frequency of asthma attacks, and raise the risks of heart attacks.

Fine particulate pollution consists of microscopic matter, which because of its size is able to lodge deep in the lungs just through normal breathing. PM can be directly emitted from utilities, other industry, automobiles tailpipes, and even wood fires. A number of health issues arise from regular exposure to PM, including coughing, wheezing, reduced lung function, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. Studies have linked PM to early death.

Another pollutant issue, for which RAPCA does not regulate or monitor, is greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), particularly carbon dioxide and methane. The primary sources of GHG emissions are from fossil fuel combustion for energy production and transportation. GHG are heat-trapping gases that, with increasing concentrations in the atmosphere, are forcing climate warming and changes to temperature, precipitation and vegetation patterns. Prolonged, significant warming to our Midwest climate will have detrimental impacts on our infrastructure, agriculture, and health.

What Communities can do

The common thread among these air quality issues is that reducing energy consumption by transportation and the built environment will reduce the emission or formation of ozone, PM and GHG. All communities in the Miami Valley can contribute to cleaner air by encouraging their residents to choose to drive less and use less fossil fuel energy, and developing in ways that facilitate those choices. That means making sure that walking, bicycling, and transit use are safe, comfortable and convenient alternatives to driving alone. It also means making sure the community’s codes and ordinances allow for the kinds of compact land use that make active transportation a good option, and facilitate renewable energy use. The suggested programs, policies and projects that follow serve as a menu of options for your community to continue on the path to sustainability.

Community Education & Outreach

  • Work with RAPCA and MVRPC’s Air Quality Program to provide information about the ways residents and businesses can reduce air pollution (both outdoors and indoors).
  • Notify community residents when RAPCA and MVRPC’s issue Air Pollution Advisories . BYG
  • Host a RAPCA air permitting workshop in your community for your local businesses.
  • Set a goal for carbon emissions reduction and work with partners throughout the city to plan implementation strategies. The City of Cincinnati’s Green Cincinnati Plan is a good model.
  • Partner with your Public Health district to host tobacco cessation classes for your employees and/or residents.

Internal operations

  • Improve the energy efficiency of city buildings through energy audits, lighting and HVAC improvements. BYG
  • Improve the efficiency of the municipal vehicle fleet. Explore opportunities to add hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and/or electric vehicles to the community fleet. Both the Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA offer diesel emission reduction programs to assist in vehicle conversion or replacement.
  • Encourage employees to use electric vehicles by allowing workplace charging.
  • Prohibit unnecessary idling of city vehicles. A example anti-idling policy is from the Centerville-Washington Park District. BYG
  • Adjust city operations on Air Pollution Advisory Days to avoid unnecessary driving and refueling or other activities that emit volatile organic chemicals (e.g., street paving or painting) or fine particles (e.g., diesel engines, mowing, leaf blowing). BYG

Ordinances and policies

  • Anti-idling ordinance — Vehicle engines should not idle any more than is absolutely necessary. Excessive idling wastes fuel, causes air pollution, and shortens engine life. A simple way to communicate this message is to enact an anti-idling ordinance, which makes it illegal to idle more than a few minutes. An effective anti-idling ordinance makes it illegal to idle more than 5 minutes in warm weather or 10 minutes in cold weather. Common-sense exceptions are provided for safety and emergency vehicles and other vehicles that need to idle for various reasons. An example of a good policy comes from Cleveland. Locally, Five Rivers MetroParks and Centerville Washington Park District have anti-idling policies.  BYG
  • Support the transition to electric transportation by installing free public Level 1 or Level 2 electric vehicle charging at key public destinations, such as your downtown, libraries and community centers. BYG
  • Alternate Fuel Corridors – see Transportation chapter.
  • Complete streets — see Transportation chapter.
  • Mixed-use zoning — see Land Use and Development chapter.
  • Transit-oriented development — see Land Use and Development chapter.
  • Density bonuses — see Land Use and Development chapter.
  • Tree protection — see Trees and Land Management chapter.
  • City aggregation program for green power — see Energy chapter.

Broader collaboration

Since air pollution is not constrained by community boundaries, some of the most important actions to improve air quality will require collaboration at the regional scale. All communities in Miami Valley can help by:

  • Supporting effective state air quality implementation planning (such plans outline the emissions budgets and control measures the areas will take to attain and maintain clean air standards).
  • Supporting land use planning to develop vibrant, walkable communities that provide convenient transportation options and reduce the amount people need to drive.
  • Supporting the funding of public transit service and increased facilities for biking.

Local contacts

  • Air pollution regulations and monitoring — Eileen Moran, RAPCA, 937-225-4435
  • Climate action planning — Mark Charles, Dayton Manager of Sustainability, 937-333-3600,
  • Health impacts of air pollution — Brian Huxtable, RAPCA, 937-225-4435,
  • Health impacts on children — Jessica Saunders, Dayton Children’s Hospital, 937-641-3385
  • Regional air quality planning — Matt Lindsay, MVRPC, 937-531-6548,
  • RAPCA AirLine for updated Air Quality Index and pollen and mold counts – 937.223.3222

Resources