The Air Quality Program responds to air quality complaints, and issues open burn permits in the City and County of Broomfield. Broomfield's Environmental Health Specialists also educate the public about health risks associated with a variety of indoor environmental pollutants and sources of air pollution such as mold, radon, and carbon monoxide. If you want to file a concern about air quality related to oil and gas, click here.
Sign up to receive ozone action alerts to get the most up-to-date information about Colorado’s Air Quality.
You can also sign-up for air quality alerts from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
How to Check Air Quality in the Front Range
- Check local air quality conditions by zip code for your area.
- The City and County of Broomfield conducts additional monitoring that entails observations of meteorological conditions as well as monitoring of atmospheric pollutants. The objective of this program is to characterize the atmospheric air quality and to assess potential impacts from oil and natural gas drilling emissions on local and regional air quality. To check the local air quality conditions in Broomfield, including ozone and particulate matter, visit the AirLive website.
- To check current air quality advisories for the Front Range issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, click here. To check current ozone conditions in the Front Range, click here.
Causes of Poor Air Quality and Health Impacts
Ozone is one of the six common air pollutants identified in the Clean Air Act and is caused by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Much of VOC and NOx emissions in the Front Range are due to vehicle traffic and industry sources such as oil and gas. Ozone is most likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in urban environments, but can still reach high levels during colder months. Ozone at ground-level can cause a variety of health concerns for sensitive people, particularly the elderly, young children, and those with asthma or other respiratory problems.
Health Impacts from Ozone
When inhaled, ground level ozone can cause lung and throat irritation, coughing, pain when taking a deep breath, wheezing, and trouble breathing while exercising. According to the CDC, people with asthma or lung diseases, those who work outdoors, older adults, babies, and children may be more likely to experience health symptoms. The American Lung Association states that breathing in ozone is like getting a sunburn on your lungs. Ozone exposure can cause asthma attacks, increased risk of respiratory infections, increased risk of hospitalization for sensitive individuals and a higher risk of death from long-term exposure. In addition, your pets can also experience symptoms from exposure to high ozone.
Protect Your Health from Ozone
Before exercising or spending a lot of time outdoors on warm, sunny days, it’s best to check the ozone conditions in your area. When ozone levels are high, limit outdoor exposure to air, especially high intensity outdoor exercise.
According to the CDC, you can take the following steps to protect your respiratory health when ozone levels are high:
- Think about spending more time indoors, where ozone levels are usually lower.
- Choose easier outdoor activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard.
- Plan outdoor activities at times when ozone levels are lower (usually in the morning and evening).
Smoke and Particulate Matter
Particulate matter (PM) consists of airborne particles that can be inhaled, and ranges in size from 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter (in comparison, the width of a human hair is 50-70 micrometers). PM 2.5 is fine particulate matter that is so small that it can be detected only with an electron microscope. PM 2.5 is created from combustion processes, including those from motor vehicles, power generation, residential wood burning, forest fires/wildfires, agricultural processes, and some industrial processes.
Health Impacts from Particulate Matter (Smoke)
Particle pollution exposure has been linked to serious health problems involving the lungs and heart. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter are too small to be filtered by the nose and lungs and can get deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream. Particulate matter is the main public health threat from short-and longer-term exposure to wildfire smoke (EPA, 2019). Even short term exposure (i.e. days or weeks) to these tiny particles can cause health impacts to healthy individuals such as: respiratory irritation, coughing, wheezing, reductions in lung function, pulmonary inflammation, and difficulty breathing (EPA, 2019).
According to the EPA, the health effects of wildfire smoke can range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, and exacerbation of asthma. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to smoke exposure. Emissions from wildfires are known to cause increased visits to hospitals and clinics by those exposed to smoke.
Protect Your Health on High Particulate (Smoky) Days
See the EPA’s ways to protect your children from wildfire smoke.
Purple Air allows you to view, in real-time, PM 2.5 Air Quality Index conditions for various locations across the state. This is helpful if you want to identify locations where air quality conditions are more favorable.