2010 April 18: AK Fairbanks: Air Quality Fairbanks
The content or “source apportionment” of PM2.5 has been measured at many sites around the borough. Wood smoke is the source of more than 60 percent of the PM2.5 particles found at most sites. The chart below shows the source apportionment of PM2.5 measured at four different locations in Fairbanks and North Pole. After wood smoke, sulfate, ammonium nitrate, automobiles, and diesel are the next biggest sources of local PM2.5.
PM2.5 levels have been monitored in Fairbanks for many years. The chart below shows PM2.5 measurements in downtown Fairbanks since 1999. The federal 24-hour standard for PM2.5 (the red line in the chart) was lowered in 2006. Although the Fairbanks North Star Borough exceeds the EPA standards during the summer wildfire season in the worst fire years (the highest spikes on the chart), we regularly exceed the new EPA standard during the winter.
The fine particulate matter suspended in our air is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. They can be emitted directly or formed in the air from gases. Sources of particulate matter can be man made or natural, including wildfires, power plants and other industrial sources, wood stoves and other space heating devices, cars, trucks and heavy equipment.