Protecting Public Health and the Environment.
Air toxics, also known as hazardous air pollutants, are a group of air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause serious health problems such as cancer, birth defects, lung damage, and nerve damage. Examples of air toxics include asbestos, chloroform, formadehyde, mercury and nickel compounds, and perchloroethylene.
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals mined for properties such as thermal insulation, chemical and thermal stability, and high tensile strength. Learn more.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element present throughout the environment. When released into the air as a result of human activity, it can become an air toxic. Learn more.
Scientists estimate that millions of tons of toxic pollutants are released into the air each year. Most air toxics originate from the following three humanmade sources:
Some air toxics are also are released from natural sources such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.
Recent studies on air toxics have focused on releases by a variety of small sources, including cars and trucks, construction machinery, printers, auto repair shops, and numerous other small businesses that use paints or chemical cleaners. Results indicate that even though each of these activities may release only a small amount of toxic air pollution, the combined effect is significant in many cities.
People exposed to air toxics at sufficient concentrations and durations may have an increased chance of developing cancer or experiencing other serious health problems, including damage to the immune system as well as neurological, reproductive (reduced fertility), developmental, and respiratory problems.
People are exposed to toxic air pollutants in many ways such as:
Once toxic air pollutants enter the body, some persistent toxic air pollutants accumulate in body tissues. Since predators typically accumulate even greater pollutant concentrations than their contaminated prey, people and other animals at the top of the food chain may be exposed to higher concentrations of toxics than are found in water, air, or soil alone.
Toxic pollutants in the air or deposited on soils or surface waters can impact the environment. Animals, like humans, can experience health problems if exposed to sufficient concentrations of air toxics over time. Numerous studies conclude that deposited air toxics are contributing to birth defects, reproductive failure, and disease in animals. Persistent toxic air pollutants are of particular concern in aquatic ecosystems because the pollutants accumulate in sediments and may bioaccumulate in tissues of animals at the top of the food chain to concentrations many times higher than in the water or air.
Toxic pollutants that mimic hormones also pose a threat to the environment. In wildlife such as birds, shellfish, fish, and mammals, exposure to DDT, dioxins, mercury and other pollutants has been associated with decreased fertility, decreased hatching success, damaged reproductive organs, and altered immune systems.
Air toxics are regulated by both state and federal programs. Idaho's Air Toxics Program regulates approximately 350 toxic air pollutants (TAPs), while EPA's federal program regulates 188 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). Both TAPs and HAPs are referred to as air toxics.
Air Quality Toxics AnalystDr. Carl BrownDEQ State OfficeAir Quality Division1440 N. HiltonBoise, ID 83706(208) email@example.com
You Are What You Breathe: Air Quality and Your Health
Taking Toxics Out of the Air
Air Pollution and Health Risk
Evaluating Exposures to Toxic Air Pollutants: A Citizen's Guide
Risk Assessment for Toxic Air Pollutants:: A Citizen's Guide
Mobile Source Air Toxics
Original List of Hazardous Air Pollutants
Health Effects Notebook for Hazardous Air Pollutants
National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs)Toxic Air Pollutants (TAPs)