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Outdoor Air Quality

Minimizing atmospheric pollution and protecting outdoor air quality is crucial for the protection of ecosystems and human health. Luckily, many such measures coincide with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which thus leads to positive impacts both on campus and globally.

The Clean Air Act: Federal and State

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the implementation of the Clean Air Act; but state, local, and tribal organizations work to complete many of its requirements. These actions include:

  • "Reducing outdoor, or ambient, concentrations of air problems;
  • Reducing emissions of toxic air pollutants that are known to, or are suspected of, causing cancer or other serious health effects; and
  • Phasing out production and use of chemicals that destroy stratospheric ozone"

More recent additions and amendments have sought to further strengthen protection for the air and ecosystems that keep us alive. Read more on the EPA's Clean Air Act page!

Massachusetts’ government followed up this legislation with their own Massachusetts Clean Air Act: (MG.L. Chapter 111, Sections 142A-142J). In particular, Massachusetts’ Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has created local regulations focusing on:

Past action at local, state, federal and international levels has worked, as seen in part in the EPA's "Our Nation's Air Report" so we must keep hope and pressure for these laws and regulations to be maintained, implemented, and strengthened.

Each of the steps that have weakened the health of the atmosphere carries the potential to be reversed to some degree; it is up to us to do so before it is too late.

What We Are Doing Here

We here at UMass Lowell are working to track and reduce the emissions that we produce from stationary and mobile forces in accordance with federal and local regulations.

Some particularly harmful pollutants that we track and are working to reduce atmospheric concentrations of here at UMass Lowell are:

Pollutant NameInformation
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)Contributing factor in the formation of acid rain. Primarily comes from automobile emissions.
Sulfur Oxides (SOx)Another contributing factor in the formation of acid rain. Primarily comes from fossil fuel power plants.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)Odorless, tasteless, colorless, and toxic. Sourced largely from automobiles and indoor appliances.
Particulate Matter (PM)Small particles that can cause a multitude of health hazards, such as heart and lung problems. Can come multiple sources such as from combustion, construction, or chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Ozone (O3)Ground level (or tropospheric) ozone is formed from chemical reactions in the air between NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It can cause various breathing impacts on humans and also the environment.
Lead (Pb)Lead can come from various sources, but due to increased regulations in the late 1970s air levels have been drastically reduced. Lead can have health effects ranging from brain to kidney damage.
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)There are 187 other toxic air pollutants that the EPA regulates, with a wide-ranging set of health effects.
Ozone Depleting Compounds (ODCs)These compounds, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), reduce the atmospheric concentration of stratospheric ozone, which thus leads to an increase in UV radiation that can cause various cancers.

View our AASHE Stars Reporting on our air quality here at UMass Lowell!