EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - May is National Clean Air Month, and Chippewa Valley residents are part of the 95% of Wisconsinites living in areas that meet all federal air quality standards, according to the Wisconsin DNR.
"We've seen some really good trends over the last 20 years, and those trends are continuing," said Craig Czarnecki, air program outreach coordinator with the DNR.
Ozone pollution has dropped 50% and fine particulate matter has decreased 35% statewide since the early 2000s. Czarnecki attributes this largely to the increasing efficiency of vehicles and electric utilities over that time period.
Locally, air quality is measured via sensors in Eau Claire and Taylor County. Czarnecki said the Eau Claire County sensor has been in place since 2011, and has continuously met national standards during that time.
This is a good thing, because thousands of people in the Eau Claire area, including children, older adults, people with asthma or heart conditions, and people who spend a lot of time exercising outdoors are at a higher risk to experience breathing problems when air quality is poor.
Even though we're already in a good spot, there's still room for improvement.
"Keep your car running efficiently [and] get regular oil changes so your engine's running smoothly," said Czarnecki. "Make sure your tires are inflated properly so your vehicle will run more efficiently."
A number of cities around the state have goals to keep reducing emissions and work toward carbon neutrality by 2050, including Eau Claire and Menomonie.
Eau Claire Senior Planner Ned Noel told News 18 in a statement that carbon neutrality greatly reduces our emissions, improving our local air quality and making it easier for citizens to breathe.
The latest statistics from the DNR only go through 2019, and do not include the temporary reduction in vehicle emissions that occurred during the pandemic. Those results will be released later this year.
The only parts of the state that do not currently meet federal air quality standards are located within five counties along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
There are several ways to participate in Clean Air Month, including a kids' poetry contest and clean air bingo. The DNR also has a clean air podcast. You can find more information here.