Category A cities: implement this best practice by completing any two actions.
Category B and C cities: implement this best practice by completing any one action.
Through implementation of GreenStep City land use and transportation best practices, cities can shape physical development patterns and the actions of community members such that vehicle miles traveled are decreased, and thus air pollution from vehicles is decreased. Air pollution from other sources - businesses and local power plants - can be cut through implementation of actions in the GreenStep business assistance and renewable energy best practices.
In addition to these actions, cities can take additional measures to support the actions of community members that result in lower outdoor and indoor air pollution, improved public health and decreased health care costs. Several of these actions have cities conducting, or assisting others to conduct, education campaigns tied to making it easier/cheaper for citizens and businesses to adopt behaviors or equipment that prevent or reduce the generation of air pollutants.
While Minnesota cities have overall air pollution levels that typically fall under state/national standards, local air quality can be compromised by a variety of specific conditions, which cities can address by targeted actions.
Keep informed for “Bad Air Days” by signing up for Air Quality Alerts through EnviroFlash or download the MN Air Mobile App (available for Apple and Android). The latest 2019 research, for example, estimates the overall public health burden of air pollution by MN county and estimates that 5-10% of all deaths in Minnesota, or between 2,000-4,000 deaths every year, are attributable to air pollution. Why you should care: air quality and health.
Explore interactive maps to see statewide and local air pollution modeling showing the cumulative impacts of fine particles and air toxic pollutants and consequent risks to human health (using a risk-screening tool called MNrisks). This MPCA tool allows users to (1) identify primary sources of air pollution in your city, (2) view the impact of busy roads, and (3) understand related health risks.
Use the environmental justice map tool to explore where sources and pollutants are located in association with areas of concern for environmental justice. Click on the “MPCA air pollution score” tab and zoom in to see the air pollution score for an area, how it compares to the rest of Minnesota, and the pollutants and sources contributing most to the air pollution score in that area. Areas colored in purple on the map have air pollution scores of greater than or equal to 1 are above health benchmarks. Higher numbers mean higher risk.
Vehicles with diesel engines represent only 10% of traffic on Minnesota roads, but contribute a significant amount of the air pollution generated by vehicles in the state. According to EPA estimates, for every dollar spent on diesel emission reductions there are $13 dollars in health benefits.
Outdoor wood boilers can emit 1,000 times more pollution than traditional indoor gas and oil furnaces and warrant attention if they emit more than allowed under EPA's Step 2 fine particle emission standards. These boilers exacerbate health risks when located in more densely populated areas, in areas with steep topography, and when near large water bodies.
Air pollution levels in homes are often two to five times higher than outdoors, according to EPA studies. Many years of attention to indoor smoking has improved indoor air quality, but now widely available non-toxic paints, cleaners, furnishings, options to avoid fragrance chemicals, and other home products make further improvements possible.
Residential wood smoke contains fine particles and toxic air pollutants, some of which are probable human carcinogens. If all of the old wood stoves in the U.S. were changed out to cleaner burning hearth appliances, estimates are that at least $35 billion in health benefits per year could be realized from eliminating premature deaths, non-fatal heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, and asthma attacks. EPA-certified wood stoves, though much cleaner than uncertified stoves and fireplaces, still create roughly 150 times more harmful fine particles than a gas furnace.