The Clean Air Program

When was the Clean Air Program initiated and why does it exist?

The Clean Air Program was initiated by MACOG in 1994.  The main goal of the program is to educate citizens and businesses about how to help keep the air clean.  In 2003, Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties were designated as non-attainment areas by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The programs outlined below help to reduce emissions and improve the air quality of the region.

What are the components of the Clean Air Program?

Partners for Clean Air
This program is aimed at businesses and organizations to secure them as advocates for clean air. "Partners" are provided with resources and information to give to employees to broaden the reach of clean air education.

Advertising Campaign
A series of television, radio, and print advertising has been developed and appears during the ozone season.

What is the air quality information reported? What is the Air Quality Index?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) provides a simple, uniform way to report daily air pollution concentrations. The AQI value tells the public about the general health effects associated with these pollutants and prescribes some general precautionary steps that can be taken. The AQI is a reporting tool that converts the pollutant concentrations measured in our air to a simple number on a scale of 0 to 500. Intervals on the AQI scale are related to the potential health effects of the daily measured concentration of five major pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (S02), and small particulate matter (PM10). The intervals, descriptor words, generalized health effects, and cautionary statements are listed on the table below.

Air Quality Index
(AQI) Values
Levels of Health Concern Colors
When the AQI
is in this range:
...air quality conditions are: symbolized
by this color:
0 to 50 Good Green
51 to 100 Moderate Yellow
101 to 150 Unhealthy for
Sensitive Groups
151 to 200 Unhealthy Red
201 to 300 Very Unhealthy Purple
301 to 500 Hazardous Maroon

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

What is Ozone?

Ozone is a form of oxygen with three atoms.  Oxygen has two atoms.  Ozone is a colorless gas in its pure form. The extra oxygen atom in ozone makes it unstable and reactive.  The extra atom enables ozone to break down other substances ranging from paint and rubber to living organisms. Thus, ozone is unhealthy in the air we breathe.

It is very important to distinguish "good" upper atmosphere, or stratospheric ozone, from "bad" ground level ozone at the outset. Though the chemical structure of ozone is always the same, where it occurs in the atmosphere may lead to widely differing impacts on people and other living creatures.

Upper atmosphere protects us from the sun's rays.

High ozone concentrations in the upper atmosphere protect us from the suns rays.  Ozone occurs naturally and serves to filter out cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation from the sun.  The suns rays (radiation) also affects plants, reducing growth rates and crop yields. Solar energy also creates ozone at this height, approximately 10 to 15 miles above the surface of the earth.

Much has been written and discussed about the "hole" in the ozone layer caused by manmade chemicals, and it is a problem of critical importance. Certain chemicals used for refrigeration, air conditioning, and industrial processes which break down ozone in the upper atmosphere are the culprits here; these compounds, called CFC’s and HCFC’s, are currently being phased out.

Ground level is an irritant to the lungs.

Small amounts of ozone are formed near the earth’s surface through natural means like lightning. Such amounts are local in nature and are quickly dissipated. Minor amounts of ground level ozone can also be produced in the immediate vicinity of high voltage electrical equipment, arc welding, and other processes.

The elevated ground level ozone recorded, however, is due to man-made and man-controlled activities. We all pollute everyday.  We drive automobiles that emit pollutants through tailpipe emissions.  We paint our homes and gases are released.  We mow our lawns with gas powered mowers.  We heat and air condition our homes, which uses fossil fuels.   These pollutants from daily life and industrial sources are released into the air and react in the presence of sunlight and heat to form ozone. Enough of these pollutants are released to produce elevated ozone levels over hundreds of square miles for long periods of time.  Though ozone itself is colorless, it is a main component of the unpleasant haze that people refer to as "smog". Small particles and nitrogen oxides actually impart the yellowish color.

Does it affect some people more than others?

Though ozone affects everybody, some groups are especially sensitive to high ozone levels. It is especially harmful to the elderly and children. Other groups of people sensitive to ozone smog include pregnant women, persons exercising, and people with heart and lung conditions. Children are vulnerable to ozone because they breath faster than adults, and they breathe relatively more air for their size. Children are also more likely to spend time outdoors. Ozone may pose its worst health threat to those who already suffer from respiratory diseases. Some diseases such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis affect nearly 10 percent of the population. Scientific studies have shown that the number of asthma attacks rise as ozone levels increase. Asthma affects between 10 and 12 million Americans.

Compiled by IEPA, CATS, IDEM.

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If you have any questions about the Clean Air Program, please contact MACOG at (574) 674-8894 or e-mail us at