Portland/ Weather & Environment
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Published on May 25, 2024
Oregon DEQ Unveils Mixed Results in 2022 Air Toxics Summary, Highlights Progress and Challenges Across Key CitiesSource: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Residents of Oregon can breathe a little easier as the latest findings on air quality across the state have surfaced. On May 23rd, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) made public its 2022 Air Toxics Summary, which tracks pollutants in the air people breathe where they live, work, and play. Through extensive monitoring at 10 sites including Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, La Grande, Medford, and the Portland metro area, the DEQ arms itself and local communities with crucial data to curb pollution and shield public health.

The DEQ’s report, capturing up to 106 different air toxics, paints a comprehensive picture of Oregon’s air status. Aiming to slash air toxins to meet or fall below target benchmarks, the agency’s stats offer guidance on the state’s progress, yet the results were a mixed bag with the 8th & Emerson location in Bend registering the highest levels of air toxics, while, by contrast, Eugene's Amazon Park scored the lowest, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. These benchmarks, mind you, are not legally binding standards but health-protective goals designed to shelter the most susceptible among us, for both cancerous and non-cancerous pollutants.

One notable find in the summary was formaldehyde levels, exceeding the Ambient Benchmark Concentrations (ABCs) and topping the national average at most of the TV, this hazardous agent was found widespread throughout the state affecting multiple areas, though the quantities varied from site to site. Not all news from the report was foreboding; no air toxins crossed the short-term (24-hour) reference values, and Portland-metro showed a heartening downswing in long-term air toxic trends.

"This report allows DEQ to monitor and analyze air toxics in a variety of locations across Oregon," Lori Pillsbury, Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division Administrator, said, as per the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, "We’re able to collect an enormous amount of data and can gain insights into air quality by comparing results from the different sites." The information serves as more than just a ledger of pollution levels; it underpins initiatives like the Vehicle Inspection Program, Clean Fuels, Cleaner Air Oregon programs, and the support for cleaner-burning woodstoves and more efficient vehicles.

With the battle against air contamination ongoing, Oregonians spirits must fend off not just the pollutants but the choices they navigate daily, choices that harmonize or clash with the report’s findings—through implementing stricter vehicle inspections, endorsing cleaner fuel initiatives, embracing electric vehicles or upgrading to cleaner wood stoves. As analysis continues on the air toxics data collected in 2023, it stands to reason Oregon's DEQ will soon share insights on whether these interventions yield the triumphant reduction in air toxics their communities have been gasping for.