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Air Quality Basics

Park vistors enjoying natural resources at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Park visitors enjoying natural resources at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Air quality is important for human health, as well as natural resources. Air pollution includes gases and particles in the air that are emitted by power plants, factories, automobiles, and other sources. This can have serious effects on air quality, wildlife, vegetation, lakes, streams, soils, and visibility. Air pollution can come from local sources or may be transported long distances—even internationally—by winds.

Air pollution impacts all National Park Service (NPS) areas. This is a challenge for the NPS, who's mission is to manage and protect resources unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. Understanding where air pollution comes from, what it is made of, and how it affects parks and park resources is key to protecting NPS areas.

Air Quality Topics

Sources of Air Pollution

Photo of a power plant near Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Air pollution in NPS areas comes from local and far-away sources. These sources can include automobiles, power plants, factories, wildfires, and volcanoes. Learn more...

Air Pollutants of Concern

Courthouse Towers, Arches National Park, Utah

Pollutants can harm sensitive resources. Ozone, fine particles, sulfate, nitrate, ammonia, heavy metals, and toxics are all of concern to the NPS.
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Effects of Air Pollution

Photo of a scientist using a grid plot to monitor alpine vegetation at Logan Pass in Glacier NP, Montana.

Plants and animals, land and water-based ecosystems, and visibility can all be affected by air pollution in NPS areas.
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NPS Air Quality Responsibilities

NPS ranger points to the haze in the distance from an air quality monitoring station

Both the NPS Organic Act and the Clean Air Act make the NPS responsible for protecting air quality and resources affected by poor air quality in parks.
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Related Links

Last Updated: January 10, 2013