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Air Quality

Air Pollutants and Monitoring

Specific Air Pollutant Information

Each of these air pollutants have established methods to track their amounts present in the air we breathe (also called ambient air). Many of them involve specific regulations and laws to keep our health and environment safe.

In South Carolina, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes laws, standards, and regulations for states to follow. DHEC is responsible for maintaining the air quality in South Carolina.

Criteria Pollutants

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to establish health and science-based standards for air pollutants that have the highest levels of potential harm to human health or the environment. These National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are in place for six air pollutants, also referred to as criteria pollutants. Of the six current criteria pollutants, particle pollution and ozone have the most widespread health threats, but they all have the potential to cause damage to human health and the environment.

Exceedances of the concentrations of these pollutants above their NAAQS are reported to EPA. Details on how those concentrations are monitored, received, and analyzed are available on the Bureau of Air Quality's Ambient Air Monitoring Network webpage.

Often, one pollutant can contribute to increased concentrations of others. These air pollutants are sometimes referred to as "precursors". Even though there are many of these kinds of pollutants, the most widely monitored and tracked precusor pollutants are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). When combined with nitrogen oxides found in the exhaust of our vehicles, VOCs can significantly increase formation of ground-level ozone.

Each of the criteria pollutants is linked below. Within their DHEC webpages, you can find where the pollutant comes from, any potential health or environmental effects it may have, and contact information for DHEC staff. The remaining links take you to EPA webpages for these pollutants.

Additional information on criteria pollutants can be found on EPA's Air Pollutants website.

For more information please contact the Bureau of Air Quality at (803) 898-4123 or by email.