Air toxics in Minnesota
More than 30 years of effort to reduce air pollution has significantly improved air quality in many parts of the country, including Minnesota. Most of this work has focused on six so-called "criteria" pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen oxides ). National air quality standards only exist for these six criteria pollutants. Many thousands of other substances are also released into the air.
Air toxics are a category of substances known to cause or are suspected of causing cancer or other health problems at high enough levels. The MPCA relies on state and federal health benchmarks to assess potential health effects of air toxics.
"Inhalation health benchmarks" represent air concentrations below which there is little appreciable risk of harm to humans. These health benchmarks, though, are not enforceable regulatory standards. In addition, many chemicals lack health benchmarks.
Efforts to measure some air toxics began in the last decade. Minnesota has monitored air toxics more extensively than most other states.
More than half of the air toxics emitted in Minnesota come from cars, trucks and other vehicles
- Minnesota Air Toxics Emission Inventory
The MPCA estimates emissions of 109 toxic air compounds from industries, businesses, transportation, residences and more.
- Air Monitoring and Emissions Data
Use this link to visit the air-quality portion of MPCA's Environmental Data Access (EDA). Here you will find the results of the MPCA's monitoring of outdoor air, the location of various permitted air emission sources, emissions inventories, as well as information about chemicals.
Use these links to learn about air toxic concentrations in Minnesota's air and the potential risk they may pose:
- Update on Air Monitoring near the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, May 2006.
- Air Toxics Monitoring in the Twin Cities Area -- Preliminary Report January 2003
A report required by the Minnesota Legislature to describe the findings of expanded air toxics monitoring in the Twin Cities.
- Minnesota Statewide Air Toxics Monitoring Study (1996-2001)
From 1996 through 2001, the MPCA collected air toxics samples throughout Minnesota as part of a Statewide Air Toxics Monitoring Study (SATM). This report details the resulting concentrations, trends and risks from air toxics in Minnesota.
The MPCA also periodically reviews criteria and air toxic trends and control programs and reports its findings to the Minnesota Legislature.
- Air Quality in Minnesota: 2011 Report to the Legislature
- Air Quality in Minnesota Emerging Trends, 2009 Legislative Report
The MPCA is responsible for implementing and enforcing federal rules that control toxic releases from industries and certain business activities.
- EPA Air Toxics Rules and Implementation
Federal regulations establish air toxic controls for different industries and various business activities.
- Air Emissions Risk Analysis (AERA)
The MPCA requires an analysis of potential risks from air toxic releases when building or expanding certain types of facilities in Minnesota.
Links to Minnesota Department of Health
The MPCA works in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health to manage air toxics. MDH’s Environmental Health Division addresses many additional aspects of people’s exposure to toxics. These links will direct you to specific areas.
- Minnesota Department of Health Risk Assessment Unit
The MPCA seeks the expertise of the Minnesota Department of Health when considering impacts and risk from chemicals. MDH is responsible for establishing health risk values (“inhalation benchmarks”) used by the MPCA for assessing a chemical’s impact.
- Minnesota Department of Health “Healthy Homes”
MDH helps Minnesotans understand and protect themselves from potential risks to chemicals and other contaminants present in their homes.
Links to EPA’s air toxics information
The EPA has a very large Web site about air toxics: what they are, where they are found, their effects, and what is being done to control them. For general information about air toxics and individual pollutants, go to: About Air Toxics
The understanding of the impacts and fate of air toxics grows everyday. Some suggested additional Web sites are provided below. For information on air toxics reported by other states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), check the following Web sites:
For information on what you can do to reduce air toxics from mobile sources, check the following Web sites:
- Public Transportation Information
- Consumer Information on the Environmental Impact of Transportation
- Concerned Citizen/Consumer Information on Transportation Choices
For questions about air toxics in Minnesota, contact Anne Jackson, MPCA Environmental Analysis and Outcomes Division 651-757-2460.