Information

Information

According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, air pollution usually refers to the presence of substances that are either present in the air where it doesn't belong or at levels greater than it should be. This undesirable substance can be gases, liquids, or solids. The WI EPHT provides data and information about air pollutants that are either considered a National Ambient Air Quality Standard set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) or considered cancer causing.

The National Ambient Air Quality Standard air pollutants are called criteria air pollutants. These data are measurements from industrial emissions or monitoring stations around the state.

The cancer causing air pollutants are called carcinogenic emissions. These data are from industry reports of the release of these emissions.

Last Revised: July 14, 2014

Criteria Pollutants

Criteria Pollutants

The WI EPHT provides data and information about air pollutants that have a National Ambient Air Quality Standard set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). These air pollutants are also called criteria air pollutants. These air pollutants are measurements from industrial emissions or monitoring stations around the state. The State of Wisconsin has established air quality standards for industrial emissions.

Information and Resources
[Print page (PDF, 67KB)]

  • What are air pollutants?
    • According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, air pollution usually refers to the presence of substances that are either present in the air where it doesn't belong or at levels greater than it should be. This undesirable substance can be gases, liquids, or solids.

  • What is WI EPHT focusing on within air pollutants?
    • There are many different kinds of air pollutants. The WI EPHT is focusing on air pollutants that have a National Ambient Air Quality Standard regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These pollutants are called criteria air pollutants. Some of these air pollutants are measurements from industrial emissions or monitoring stations around the state. The State of Wisconsin-Department of Natural Resources has established air quality standards for industrial emissions.

      The following lists the air pollutants featured on this website and whether the measurements are from emissions or monitoring stations:
      * particulate matter under 2.5 microns (PM2.5), monitoring station
      * ozone, monitoring station

  • What are common sources of criteria air pollutants?
    • Many pollutants are given off into the air as a result of human behavior. Pollution occurs on different levels: personal, national, and global. Some pollutants come from natural sources.

  • How am I exposed to criteria air pollutants?
    • People are exposed to air pollutants in many ways that can pose health risks, such as by:
      * Breathing contaminated air, which is the most likely route of exposure.
      * Eating contaminated foods, such as fish from contaminated waters; meat, milk, or eggs from animals that have fed on contaminated plants; and fruits and vegetables grown in contaminated soil on which air toxics have been deposited.
      * Drinking water contaminated by air pollutants.
      * Ingesting contaminated soil. Young children are especially vulnerable because they often ingest soil from their hands or from objects they place in their mouths.
      * Touching (making skin contact with) contaminated soil, dust, or water (for example, during recreational use of contaminated water bodies).

  • What can I do to protect myself from criteria air pollutants?
    • The first step is to view detailed data about your region. By contacting your regional Department of Natural Resources representative, you may be able to obtain more specific data results from samples taken in your region recently. The following website includes information about statewide emissions over time http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/airemissions/historical.html.

      In addition, there is an air monitoring map created by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that displays the air quality based upon the ozone and PM 2.5 values collected at monitoring stations.

  • How do you determine the health effects from air pollutants?
    • Measuring the link between disease and criteria air pollutants is a very complex issue. The data presented here cannot be used to measure links between specific health effects and the environment because they are only part of the many steps that can help determine these links. The health effect varies based on the amount of exposure and the length of time exposed.

      Some of the data are based on an industry's report as total emissions over a one-year time period. They do not allow for finding emissions on a specific day or over a short time period. Monitored data is also available on the WI EPHT website, which differs from emissions data. The data comes from monitors that take frequent samples of the air throughout the year.

      Both of these types of data cannot be used to identify individual risk, but they can be used to identify changes in emissions over time and place. This information can then be used to better examine potential linkages between the emissions and human health.

  • What is the relationship between air pollutants and human health?
    • How air pollution affects your health depends on the particular pollutant, its concentration in the air, the length of time your lungs are exposed to it, and your own health conditions. Air pollutants can also indirectly affect our health. Air pollutants deposited in lakes or rivers affect the quality of the water we drink and pollutants deposited on land or water enter the food chain and increase their concentration levels (bioaccumulate) in foods we eat. Criteria pollutants are regulated primarily for their short term effects. They can cause respiratory or other health problems which vary with the pollutant.

      It is generally believed that environmental contaminants in the air play a role in a variety of health effects. The health effect varies based on the amount of exposure and the length of time exposed. While the data presented here cannot be used to measure links between specific health effects and the environment, they can be used to help prioritize emission sources that are of the greatest concern, identify locations of interest for further study, provide a starting point for local-scale assessments and inform monitoring programs.

All external hyperlinks are provided for your information and for the benefit of the general public. The Department of Health Services does not testify to, sponsor, or endorse the accuracy of the information provided on externally linked pages.

 

Carcinogenic Emissions

Carcinogenic Emissions

A carcinogen is a compound that is known to cause cancer or promote the growth of cancerous tumors. Carcinogenic emissions are cancer-causing compounds that are released into the air from industries. Human exposure can also occur from the water, land and contaminated food supplies when the pollutants settle on the ground.

Information and Resources
[Print page (PDF, 52KB)]

  • What is a carcinogenic emission?
    • A carcinogen is a compound that is known to cause cancer or promote the growth of cancerous tumors. The link to cancer is influenced by the amount of something a person is exposed to (dose) and the duration of the exposure.

      Carcinogenic emissions are cancer-causing compounds that are released from industries. Exposure can occur from the air, water, land and contaminated food supplies. The amount of compound released is reported annually to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

  • Which carcinogenic emissions are the focus of the WI EPHT program?
    • The data provided on the WI EPHT website originate from the US EPA?s National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA). To determine which data sets to feature, the WI EPHT program reviewed the classifications for each compound in the data from 1999 and 2002 Details about the analysis are discussed in the next question.

        Compounds used in the 1999 data set
      • Acrylonitrile
      • Arsenic
      • Asbestos
      • Benzene
      • Benzidine
      • Beryllium compounds
      • Bis(chloromethyl)ether
      • Cadmium
      • Chlormethyl methyl ether
      • Chromium VI
      • Coke oven emissions
      • Diesel particulate matter
      • Ethylene oxide
      • Formaldehyde
      • Methylene chloride
      • Perchlorethylene
      • Trichlorethylene
      • Vinyl chloride
        Compounds used in the 2002 data set
      • Acrylonitrile
      • Arsenic
      • Benzene
      • Benzidine
      • Beryllium compounds
      • Bis(chloromethyl)ether
      • Cadmium
      • Chlormethyl methyl ether
      • Coke oven emissions
      • Diesel particulate matter
      • Ethylene oxide
      • Formaldehyde
      • Methylene chloride
      • Perchlorethylene
      • Trichlorethylene
      • Vinyl chloride

  • Why did the WI EPHT program choose these emissions?
    • The goal of the WI EPHT program is to provide data that helps track the linkages between the environment and health. The WI EPHT program focuses on industry emissions for pollutants that are known or probable carcinogens. The data originate from the much larger list of pollutants that are examined for the US EPA's National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA). The list was narrowed to include only those pollutants meeting the criteria of carcinogenic because they are the most closely related to cancer, another of the program's core topics.

      For the 1999 data, a pollutant was included if:
    • it is classified as a carcinogen by both the US EPA (classified as a Group A "Human Carcinogen") and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (classified as a Group 1 "the agent is carcinogenic to humans"). The compounds that meet this criteria are:
      • arsenic,
      • asbestos,
      • benzene,
      • benzidine,
      • bis(chloromethyl)ether,
      • chloromethyl methyl ether,
      • chromium VI,
      • coke oven emissions,
      • nickel refinery dust*,
      • nickel subsulfide*,
      • vinyl.
      • * nickel compounds were excluded from the final list due to an inability to calculate a benchmark dose that could be used to convert concentrations to cancer risk values.

    • it is classified by the US EPA as Groups B1 or B2 ("probable human carcinogen") AND by the IARC as Group 1 ("the agent is carcinogenic to humans."). These compounds are:
      • beryllium,
      • cadmium,
      • dioxin*
      • ethylene oxide.
      • * dioxin was excluded from the final list due to an inability to calculate a benchmark dose that could be used to convert concentrations to cancer risk values.

    • it is classified by the US EPA as Group B1 ("probable human carcinogen") OR by the IARC as Group 2A ("probably carcinogenic to humans"), AND over 500,000 people are exposed to estimated ambient air concentrations exceeding a one in one million excess cancer risk based on Unit Risk Estimates used in the NATA risk assessment. These compounds are:
      • acrylonitrile
      • methylene chloride
      • tetrachloroethylene
      • trichloroethylene.
    • it is classified by US EPA as Group B1 ("probable human carcinogen") OR classified by the IARC as Group 2A ("probably carcinogenic to humans"), AND a significant portion of the nation?s population is exposed to estimated ambient air concentrations exceeding a one in one million excess cancer risk based on Unit Risk Estimates different from those used in the NATA risk assessment. These compounds are:
      • diesel particulate exhaust
      • formaldehyde.

      For the 2002 data, these same criteria were applied, however, changes in the US EPA methods resulted in changes to the compounds included for 2002.

      The final list of compounds for 1999 are:
      Compound EPA Class IARC Class
      Acrylonitrile B1 2B
      Arsenic A 1
      Asbestos A 1
      Benzene A 1
      Benzidine A 1
      Beryllium compounds B2 1
      Bis(chloromethyl)ether A 1
      Cadmium B1 1
      Chlormethyl methyl ether A 1
      Chromium VI A 1
      Coke oven emissions A 1
      Diesel particulate matter not categorized 2A
      Ethylene oxide B1 1
      Formaldehyde B1 2A
      Methylene chloride B2 2A
      Perchlorethylene B2 2A
      Trichlorethylene B2 2A
      Vinyl chloride A 1
      The final list of compounds for 2002 are:
      Compound EPA Class IARC Class
      Acrylonitrile B1 2B
      Arsenic A 1
      Benzene A 1
      Benzidine A 1
      Beryllium compounds B2 1
      Bis(chloromethyl)ether A 1
      Cadmium B1 1
      Chlormethyl methyl ether A 1
      Coke oven emissions A 1
      Diesel particulate matter not categorized 2A
      Ethylene oxide B1 1
      Formaldehyde B1 2A
      Methylene chloride B2 2A
      Perchlorethylene B2 2A
      Trichlorethylene B2 2A
      Vinyl chloride A 1

  • How am I exposed to carcinogenic emissions?
    • People are exposed to toxic air pollutants in many ways that can pose health risks, such as:

      * Breathing contaminated air, which is the most likely route of exposure for carcinogenic emissions.
      * Eating contaminated foods, such as fish from contaminated waters; meat, milk, or eggs from animals that fed on contaminated plants; and fruits and vegetables grown in contaminated soil on which air toxics have been deposited.
      * Drinking water contaminated by toxic air pollutants.
      * Ingesting contaminated soil. Young children are especially vulnerable because they often ingest soil from their hands or from objects they place in their mouths.
      *Touching (making skin contact with) contaminated soil, dust, or water (for example, during recreational use of contaminated water bodies).

  • What can I do to protect myself from carcinogenic emissions?
    • The first step is to learn more about the specific pollutants and their levels in areas where you live and work. The data presented on the website are based on models that estimate the amount of compounds emitted into the air in 1999 and in 2002. The data are provided annually to the WI DNR from industries. The data are sent to the US EPA to be analyzed and modeled for estimating the risks to human health. By contacting your regional Department of Natural Resources (DNR) representative, you may be able to obtain more specific data results from samples taken in your region more recently.

  • What are the health effects from carcinogenic emissions?
    • The compounds presented here are those that are most closely associated with cancer. However, the amount of exposure and length of time exposed that lead to cancer are not well understood. It is likely environmental factors like emissions play less of a role in cancer than lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity and excessive sun exposure. Respiratory irritation and neurological effects have been seen at lower levels of exposure to contaminants. The data presented here cannot be used to measure links between cancer and the environment, but provides one of the many pieces of determining the link between a specific pollutant and specific types of cancer.

  • How do you determine the health effects from carcinogenic emissions?
    • Measuring the link between cancer and carcinogenic emissions is a complex issue. The data presented here cannot be used to measure links between cancer and the environment because they are only part of the many steps that can help determine links between a specific pollutant and specific type of cancer. The health effect varies based on the amount of exposure and the length of time exposed.

      The data presented are based on models that estimate the amount of the compound in the air during the year it was reported (1999 or 2002). The estimates are used to classify certain areas of the state as having higher or lower risk of developing cancer if exposure continues for an average lifetime of 70 years. Thus, these data cannot be used to identify individual risk, but they do provide an estimate of population risk.

  • What is the relationship between carcinogenic emissions and health?
    • It is believed approximately 10% of cancers are related to environmental factors. It is generally believed that environmental contaminants in the air play a role in causing cancer. The exact role of these contaminants in the development of cancer is unknown because there are other factors involved, e.g., lifestyle choices such as tobacco use. While the data presented here cannot be used to measure links between cancer and the environment, they can be used to help prioritize emission sources that are of the greatest concern, identify locations of interest for further investigation, provide a starting point for local-scale assessments and inform monitoring programs.

All external hyperlinks are provided for your information and for the benefit of the general public. The Department of Health Services does not testify to, sponsor, or endorse the accuracy of the information provided on externally linked pages.

 

Data

Criteria Air Pollutant Data Query

The WI EPHT website measures criteria air pollutants through industrial emission reports and air monitoring stations. Read the Data Details below to understand how to interpret the data.

 

Data Details

Criteria Air Pollutant

  • What is the data source?
    • This website provides industrial emissions and monitored data. The industrial emissions data source is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

      The US Environmental Protection Agency prepares the monitored data for the WI EPHT. The original monitored data set is available from the WI Department of Natural Resources on Real-Time Air Monitoring in Wisconsin.

  • How does WI EPHT measure criteria air pollutants?
    • The WI EPHT website measures criteria air pollutants through industrial emission reports and air monitoring stations.

      The criteria air pollutants (CO, NO, PM, PM10, volatile organic compounds, and SO2) data from industrial emission reports are measured for:
      * Annual average tons of a pollutant by geography
      * Annual maximum tons of a pollutant by geography
      * Annual minimum tons of a pollutant by geography
      * Annual total tons of a pollutant by geography

      The criteria air pollutants (PM2.5 and Ozone) data from air monitoring stations are measured for:
      * Annual ozone days exceeding the National Ambient Air Quality Standard by county
      * Annual ozone person-days exceeding the National Ambient Air Quality Standard by county
      * Annual average measurement of PM2.5 by geography
      * Annual percent of PM2.5 days exceeding the National Ambient Air Quality Standard by county
      * Annual PM2.5 person-days exceeding the National Ambient Air Quality Standard by county

  • What are some considerations for interpreting the data?
    • While significant effort is made to ensure the data quality, there are limitations in the data that are listed below:
      The data from monitoring stations represent samples that were collected every third day during the spring-fall.

      There are many factors to consider when interpreting the data for personal use:
      - The data do not allow one to estimate an individual person’s exposure.
      - The data from monitoring stations and industrial emissions are limited to the time and place where the sample occurred. In addition, the monitoring stations are located in a limited number of counties in Wisconsin. Below displays the number of PM2.5 monitoring stations in Wisconsin:
      Table of data representing details about Wisconsin monitors measuring particulate matter 2.5 around the state.
      - The industrial emission reports are not a measure of the pollutant’s dispersement in the air.

Carcinogenic Emissions

  • What is the data source?
    • The website provides a subset of data from the US EPA’s National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment project in 1999. The WI EPHT program identified a subset of data specific for carcinogenic emissions to include on the website. The process for identifying this subset of data is answered in the question, "Why did the WI EPHT program choose these emissions"?

      These data are combined with population data from the 2000 US Census.

  • How does WI EPHT measure carcinogenic emissions?
    • The WI EPHT website includes the measure for annual elevated cancer risk for a population by county by year. This measure indicates the percent of people in the county that are exposed to levels of the emission that increase their risk for cancer above 1 per million of equally exposed people. This level of exposure is assumed to be continuous (24 hours/day) over 70 years (an assumed lifetime). This risk is in addition to those cancer cases that would normally occur in an unexposed population of one million people. Note, this is different from an annual cancer risk which does not assume a lifetime exposure.

  • What are some considerations for interpreting the data?
    • While significant effort is made to ensure the data quality, there are limitations in the data that are listed below:
      * The data are modeled, based on emissions reports, and are not actual monitored or analyzed air samples.
      * The emission data used in the model are self-reported estimates from industry.
      * These are modeled data which means they are estimates for actual values and cannot be used to characterize air quality in a specific location.
      * The data do not allow one to estimate an individual person’s exposure.
      * The risk estimates are based on the assumption that a person is exposed at the same level for 70 years. This is what is meant by use of the term, “lifetime cancer risk.
      * The values presented are totals for a full year, and only for one year (1999). They do not have any information for emission levels for any specific point in time.