Air Quality


Vasu Primlani [email protected]
(865) 215-2141

400 Main St., Room 598
Knoxville, TN 37902

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July 2023: Wildfires in Canada are producing smoke that is affecting air quality across the United States, including East Tennessee. Wildfire smoke contains particles (such as acids, soot, dust, and pollen) that can increase cardiovascular and respiratory health effects - especially in individuals with existing diseases, older adults, children under 18 years of age, pregnant women, and outdoor workers.

Learn more about wildfire smoke and how to protect your health at the EPA Wildfire Smoke webpage, and view current air quality maps at AirNow.

Please note that Knox County's Department of Air Quality Management is responsible for monitoring and enforcing air quality in the City of Knoxville.


The Air Quality Index is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's tool for communicating daily air quality. It uses color-coded categories to show air quality in your area, which groups of people may be affected, and ways to reduce exposure to air pollution. The Air Quality Index helps people track when the air pollution levels are in an unhealthy range so they can modify their activities as necessary to protect their health.

Image is of an air quality chart.   Green equals Good. This means that the index value is 0-50, air quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.   Yellow equals Moderate. This means that the index value is 51 to 100, air quality is acceptable, however, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.   Orange equals Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. This means that the index value is 101 to 150, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects, and the general public is less likely to be affected.   Red equals Unhealthy. This means that the index value is 151 to 200, some members of the general public may experience health effects, and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.   Purple equals Very Unhealthy. This means that the index value is 201 to 300 and a health alert that the risk of health effects is increased for everyone.   Maroon equals Hazardous. This means that the index value is 301 and higher, health warning of emergency conditions, and everyone is more likely to be affected.

Knox County's Department of Air Quality Management monitors and enforces air quality across its jurisdiction (including the City of Knoxville), with assistance from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Air Pollution Control.


The Environmental Protection Agency regulates five air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and established an AQI for each to protect public health.

• Ozone (O3)
• Particulate matter (PM)
• Carbon monoxide (CO)
• Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
• Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

These five pollutants primarily come from human activities (such as vehicle exhaust, combustion of fossil fuels for power production, and industrial processes) and natural processes (such as volcanic eruptions and wildfires). Learn more about air quality at the EPA Air website, and view maps of current air quality at the federal AirNow website.

Air pollution is a major risk to public health and quality of life. In addition, poor air quality can affect people's physical activity and limit time outside. Worse, poor air quality can irritate the respiratory system and stress the heart, triggering asthma, emphysema, and COPD symptoms or even causing heart attacks and strokes. Long-term exposure can increase risks of serious diseases such as lung cancer. Learn more at the TN Department of Health and the National Institute of Health.

Certain individuals are particularly susceptible to negative health impacts from air pollution. These populations include:

• individuals with existing diseases
• older adults
• children under 18 years of age
• pregnant women
• outdoor workers

Air pollution is also intricately linked with climate change because both problems are caused by the same activities (such as burning fossil fuels) and both are threats to public health and the planet.