By Rachel Pressley
In August, five Tennessee counties met attainment for the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards based on data from 2013 through 2015. This is the first time that Knox, Anderson, Loudon, Blount and Roane Counties have met federal air quality standards for particulate matter in almost 20 years, according to the Knox County Health Department.
Particulate matter is a mixture of miniscule particles in the air that come from different sources. Fine particulate matter, also known as PM 2.5, is the pollutant involved in these federal air standards. It can lead to haze and even cause serious health issues, including problems with the heart and lungs.
These five counties were the last to reach air quality goals in the state, according to a Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation press release. The five-county region’s power plants have reduced burning of coal, installed scrubbers on smokestacks and transitioned some facilities from coal to natural gas to help meet this goal. Additionally, the press release reports, more fuel-efficient vehicles, increased use of public transportation and the reduction of truck speed limits contributed to state air quality standards.
The state did not lose jobs during the process — in fact, Tennessee achieved record-low unemployment rates while working to improve air quality.