Chicago Area Now Meets Federal Air Quality Standard for Fine Particulate Matter

CHICAGO, Aug. 28, 2019 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the State of Illinois’ request to formally redesignate the Chicago area to attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate matter. Recent air monitoring data show the entire Chicago area now meets the national standard set to protect public health.

The Chicago area – and also the entire state of Illinois – currently is achieving the 2012 annual National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate matter. The EPA approved Illinois’ request to redesignate Chicago.

“For 25 years, our Chicago area coalition has worked with the U.S. EPA, the Illinois EPA, and our stakeholders, including public and private fleets, to reduce air pollution from the transportation sector,” said John Walton, chair, Chicago Area Clean Cities. “Through combined regulatory and volunteer efforts, these organizations have played an important role and contributed to the success of the Chicago area in lowering harmful emissions.

“We are especially proud of the role that our member fleets have played in reducing pollution,” Walton said. “Through the use of renewable and other alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas, propane, and electricity, we will continue to see fine particulate matter emissions trending downward.”

The Chicago area was designated as nonattainment area for the 1997 fine particulate matter by the U.S. EPA based on a multifactor analysis, including air-quality monitoring data. The Clean Air Act pertaining to engine technology and fuel mandates helped to decrease emissions in the Chicago area to achieve the most current standard. Nationally, the concentration of fine particulate matter has decreased 41 percent from 2000 to 2017.

Fine particulate matter are inhalable particles with diameters smaller than 2.5 micrometers. Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries, and automobiles. Inhaling fine particulate matter can affect the lungs and heart. People with pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children, and the elderly are most at risk from exposure to particulate matter. Additionally, fine particulate matter is a major component of haze, which can reduce visibility.

Chicago Area Clean Cities, a nonprofit coalition focused on promoting clean transportation in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, was founded in 1994. Celebrating its 25thanniversary this year, the coalition’s membership is comprised of federal, state and local governments, corporations, small businesses, and individuals. These stakeholders come together to share information and resources, educate the public, help craft public policy, and collaborate on projects that reduce petroleum use.

“Our member fleets have reduced hundreds of millions of gallons of petroleum and millions of tons in greenhouse-gas emissions,” Walton added. “We’ve helped to facilitate the distribution of grant dollars for clean vehicles and alternative fuel stations. But, our work is not finished. In several Illinois counties, the ozone standard has not been achieved, the large number of older and more pollution-emitting vehicles are still a concern, and millions of Illinois citizens are suffering from lung disease. We must be diligent in our continued efforts to keep the momentum going.”

Chicago Area Clean Cities is one of nearly 100 coalitions across the country affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program, which brings together stakeholders to increase the use of alternative fuel and advanced-vehicle technologies, reduce idling, and improve fuel economy and air quality. The coalition concentrates its efforts on educating businesses and municipalities in the six-county Chicago region, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties. To become involved, visit

For more information about NAAQS:

For information about air quality in your area:

For information about air quality trends:


Scroll to Top