During the fall and winter months, the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone sees a spike in pollution that comes from wood smoke. Wood smoke from home heating accounts for more than half of our fine particle pollution on the average winter day.
In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated our region as a “nonattainment area” for fine particle pollution. Because of this designation and because our pollution levels violate the federal Clean Air Act, we have an obligation to act fast to clean up our air. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology have worked with the community to figure out the best way to improve our air quality.
If we don't clean up our air, we'll face several issues:
Federal funding for transportation (highway) projects could be at risk.
Additional restrictions apply to large businesses located within the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone, which may push economic development outside our community.
The longer we wait to clean up our air, the longer we're all breathing unhealthy levels of pollution.
The Science of Air Monitoring
There are four permanent air quality monitoring stations in the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone. Together with temporary and mobile stations, these help to paint an accurate picture of our air quality. View real-time air quality data around your neighborhood, visit our air graphing tool.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency monitors for fine particles in several ways to ensure accuracy. We also analyze over 50 different chemicals within the particles to help determine where they came from and consider factors like temperature and wind speed.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone
Where our pollution comes from
Sometimes called soot, these very small particles (1/25th the diameter of a human hair) are tiny enough to enter our bloodstream and cause health problems such as breathing troubles, heart and lung disease, stroke and premature death. They result from the combustion (burning) of wood and fossil fuels.
Many sources of fine particle pollution contribute to the air quality of the Smoke Reduction Zone. Wood smoke is the biggest source, and contributes more than half the pollution on an average winter day. Transportation (including gasoline and diesel vehicles, trains and ships), industrial sources and natural sources like dust and sea salt also play a part... even fireworks from New Year's Eve!
- Wood smoke accounts for 53% of wintertime fine particle pollution in the Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone. Gas vehicles account for 20%
- Tacoma and much of Pierce County is one of only 32 areas in the country that doesn't meet federal health standards for air quality.
- The Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone was determined by air quality data, population density, and weather.
- Uncertified wood stoves and inserts create twice as much air pollution as EPA certified stoves.
- Other sources of pollution are being addressed in our region, too, but wood smoke remains the biggest concern.