The report on Minnesota’s air is in: Overall air quality is good, but there’s still work to be done, according to the MPCA’s biennial report on air quality, The Air We Breathe: The State of Minnesota’s Air Quality 2017.
Every two years, the MPCA prepares this report for the Legislature to provide an update on Minnesota's air quality, air issues of primary concern, and opportunities to make improvements. The current report highlights the impacts of everyday pollution sources like transportation, residential, and commerce -- and the resulting health effects, which continue to disproportionately impact communities of color and lower-income communities.
Since the beginning of the Clean Air Act we’ve made great strides in reducing emissions from large “smokestack” facilities. Today, most of our air pollution comes from smaller, more widespread sources in our neighborhoods. For example, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks with higher emissions now outnumber cars on Minnesota’s roads. Emissions from these sources pose ongoing challenges for our air quality as well as opportunities to develop innovative and collaborative methods for reducing emissions.
How’s the air?
The good news is total emissions in Minnesota have fallen by half since 1990. Regulations on industrial facilities have worked well to improve air quality around the state. The MPCA has also focused efforts on addressing smaller, widespread sources of pollution in our neighborhoods, like vehicles, local businesses, heating and cooling, and recreational equipment. The agency has supported activities like retrofitting diesel engines to burn cleaner, helping small businesses reduce emissions, swapping out old wood stoves, and working with partners to educate the public about ways to reduce exposure to air pollution.
While Minnesota meets all air quality standards, the report notes we continue to be concerned about the impact of air pollution on public health. Scientists are finding health effects at pollution levels even below federal standards. Additionally, while communities of color and lower socio-economic status tend to own fewer vehicles, do less driving, and use public transit more often than other groups, they are also exposed to higher levels of traffic-related pollution.
How can we do better?
While air quality is generally good, it is up to everyday Minnesotans to keep the air clean for all. Here are some small actions you can take to help keep the air clean:
- Commute to work via bus, carpooling, biking, or walking when possible
- Avoid having recreational fires on “bad air” days
- Drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can afford
- Switch to electric-powered lawn mowers and trimmers
To learn more, check out our report webpage