Pollution Indicators


Air Quality: Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

WHAT IS SO2?

Sulfur Dioxide (S02) is a pollutant that represents the most harmful of the sulfur dioxides. This class of chemicals affect human health by causing respiratory problems and harm the environment by damaging trees and contributing to acid rain that damages buildings and property.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • SO2 causes harm to human health and is emitted by industrial facilities and by fossil fuel-burning sources such as power plants and vehicles.
  • Children, the elderly, and people suffering from heart or lung disease, asthma, or chronic illness are most sensitive to the effects of PM2.5 exposure.

 

WHAT MEASURE IS USED IN MDCAT TO EVALUATE SO2?

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) measures SO2 concentrations from air monitoring stations around the state.
  • The indicator uses the mean daily concentrations in excess of state standards.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SO2?


Air Quality: PM2.5

What is PM 2.5?

Particulate matter, or PM2.5, is very small particles in air that are 2.5 micrometers (about 1 ten-thousandth of an inch) or less in diameter. This is less than the thickness of a human hair. Particulate matter, one of six U.S. EPA criteria air pollutants , is a mixture that can include organic chemicals, dust, soot and metals. These particles can come from cars and trucks, factories, wood burning, and other activities.

 

Why is this indicator included in MDCAT?

  • The smaller the particles, the deeper they can move into the lungs when we breathe.
  • Fine particle pollution has been shown to cause many serious health effects, including heart and lung disease.
  • Children, the elderly, and people suffering from heart or lung disease, asthma, or chronic illness are most sensitive to the effects of PM2.5 exposure.

 

What measure is used in MDCAT to evaluate PM 2.5?

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) measures PM2.5 concentrations from air monitoring stations around the state.
  • The indicator uses the annual average concentration of PM2.5 measured over three years.

 

Where can I find more information about PM 2.5 and particulate matter?


Diesel Particulate Matter

WHAT IS DIESEL PARTICULATE MATTER?

Exhaust from trucks, buses, trains, ships, and other equipment with diesel engines contains a mixture of gases and solid particles. These solid particles are known as diesel particulate matter (diesel PM). Diesel PM contains hundreds of different chemicals. Many of these are harmful to health. The highest levels of diesel PM are near ports, rail yards and freeways. People are exposed to diesel PM from breathing air containing diesel exhaust.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • People living and working in cities and industrial areas and near heavy truck or train traffic are most likely to come in contact with diesel PM.
  • The very small particles of diesel PM can reach deep into the lung, where they can contribute to a range of health problems. These include irritation to the eyes, throat and nose, heart and lung disease, and lung cancer.
  • Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the effects of diesel PM.

 

HOW IS DIESEL PARTICULATE MATTER MEASURED IN MDCAT?

  • The National Air Toxics Assessment collects estimates of diesel PM emissions from many sources and makes this data available publicly.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DIESEL PARTICULATE MATTER AND DIESEL POLLUTION?


Traffic Density

WHAT IS TRAFFIC DENSITY?

Indiana is known as the "Crossroads of America" due to the several interstates which intersect in the city of Indianapolis which results in heavy traffic in and around the area. Traffic density is a measure of the number of vehicles on the roads in an area. Non-whites, Latinos, low income people, and people who speak a language other than English often live in or near areas with high traffic.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • Exhaust from cars and trucks is a major source of air pollution in much of the state.
  • Major roads and highways can bring air pollutants and noise into nearby neighborhoods.
  • Exhaust fumes contain toxic chemicals that can damage DNA, cause cancer, make breathing difficult, and cause low weight and premature births.
  • Children who live or go to schools near busy roads have higher rates of asthma and other lung diseases than children in areas farther from roads.

 

WHAT MEASURE IS USED IN MDCAT TO EVALUATE TRAFFIC DENSITY?

  • The indicator uses information on the amount of traffic on roads and the length of all roads in or near each census tract.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT TRAFFIC AND HEALTH?


Toxic Releases from Facilities

WHAT ARE TOXIC RELEASES?

Facilities that make or use toxic chemicals can release these chemicals into the air. Information is available on the amount of chemicals released for over 500 chemicals for large facilities in the United States. People of color and low income Hoosiers are more likely to live in areas with higher toxic chemical releases.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • Chemicals given off by facilities are sometimes detected in the air of nearby communities.
  • People living near facilities may breathe contaminated air regularly or if contaminants are released during an accident.

 

HOW ARE TOXIC RELEASES FROM FACILITIES MEASURED IN MDCAT?

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) provides public information(link is external) on the amount of chemicals released into the environment from many facilities.
  • The US EPA used information on these chemical releases to estimate(link is external) where they may be spreading in the air.
  • These estimates take into account weather conditions and the landscape around the facilities. Some chemicals are more toxic than others. This is taken into account in the measure.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT TOXIC RELEASES FROM FACILITIES?


Hazardous Waste Generators and Facilities

WHAT IS HAZARDOUS WASTE?

Waste created by different commercial or industrial activity contains chemicals that may be dangerous or harmful to health. Only certain regulated facilities are allowed to treat, store or dispose of this type of waste. These facilities are not the same as cleanup sites. Hazardous waste includes a range of different types of waste. It can include used automotive oil as well as highly toxic waste materials produced by factories and businesses. Studies have found that hazardous waste facilities are often located near poorer neighborhoods and communities of color.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • Hazardous waste is transported from businesses that generate waste to permitted facilities for recycling, treatment, storage or disposal.
  • Contamination of air, water and soil near waste generators and facilities can harm the environment as well as people.

 

HOW ARE HAZARDOUS WASTE GENERATORS AND FACILITIES MEASURED IN MDCAT?

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) maintains information on where hazardous waste is generated and the facilities that handle it.
  • The indicator adds up the number of permitted hazardous waste facilities and hazardous waste generators in each census tract.
  • Only large generators and generators of RCRA waste(link is external) were included.
  • The score is based also based on how close it is to neighborhoods where people live.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HAZARDOUS WASTE GENERATORS AND FACILITIES?


Cleanup Sites

WHAT ARE CLEANUP SITES?

Cleanup sites are places that are contaminated with harmful chemicals and need to be cleaned up by the property owners or government. People living near these sites are more likely to be exposed to chemicals from the sites than people living further away. Some studies have shown that neighborhoods with cleanup sites are generally poorer and have more people of color than other neighborhoods.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • Chemicals in the buildings, soil or water at cleanup sites can move into nearby communities through the air or by movement of water.
  • The land may take many years or decades to clean up, reducing possible benefits to the community.
  • Scientists have found toxic metals in house dust and pesticides in the blood of people who live near contaminated sites.

 

HOW ARE CLEANUP SITES MEASURED IN MDCAT?

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management keeps track of cleanups of contaminated sites in Indianapolis.
  • The indicator combines the sites in or near each census tract.  This combination takes into account the type of site it is and how close it is to where people may live.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CLEANUP SITES?


Impaired Water Bodies

WHAT ARE IMPAIRED WATER BODIES?

Streams, rivers and lakes are used for recreation and fishing and may provide water for drinking or agriculture. When water is contaminated by pollutants, the water bodies are considered impaired. These impairments are related to the amount of pollution that has occurred in or near the water body. Groups such as tribal or low income communities may depend on fish, aquatic plants and wildlife in nearby water bodies more than the general population.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • Impairments can prevent recreational and other uses of the water body.
  • Water pollution can harm wildlife habitats and change the number and types of plants and animals in the environment.
  • When fish and shellfish are contaminated, people who eat them can be exposed to toxic substances.

 

HOW DO WE MEASURE IMPAIRMENTS TO BODIES OF WATER IN MDCAT?

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IMPAIRMENTS TO WATER BODIES?


Groundwater Threats

WHAT ARE GROUNDWATER THREATS?

Hazardous chemicals are often stored or containers on land or in underground storage tanks. Leaks from these containers and tanks can contaminate soil and pollute groundwater.  Common pollutants of soil and groundwater include gasoline and diesel fuel from gas stations, as well as solvents, heavy metals and pesticides. The land and groundwater may take many years to clean up.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • Leaking tanks can expose people to contaminated soil and air.
  • People who live near contaminated groundwater may be exposed to chemicals moving from the soil into the air inside their homes.

 

HOW ARE GROUNDWATER THREATS MEASURED IN MDCAT?

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management characterizes sites where groundwater may be threatened by certain sources of pollution.
  • The scores for sites that threaten groundwater quality are added together for each census tract.
  • The score is based on information about the type of site and how likely contamination is to enter groundwater supplies.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND THE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT LEAKING UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANKS AND THREATS TO GROUNDWATER QUALITY?


WHAT IS Drinking Water Contaminants?

The quality of drinking water varies based on location, water source, treatment method, and the ability to remove contaminants from contaminated water. Marion County water pressure zones were measured for the presence of the following relevant contaminants: Antimony, Arsenic, Atrazine, Barium, Chromium, Cyanide, Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, Mercury, Nickel, Nitrate, Selenium, and Simazine.

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

  • Since water is universally consumed daily, the impacts of contamination in drinking water can result in widespread exposure.
  • When drinking water is contaminated, the most burdened populations are often those who live in low income and rural communities.

 

WHAT MEASURE IS USED IN MDCAT TO EVALUATE Drinking WATER cONTAMINATION?

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT dRINKING WATER CONTAMINATION?


WHAT IS Solid WASTE?

Solid waste is any garbage, refuse, sludge, or other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semisolid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, or agricultural operations or from community activities. The term solid waste is commonly used to refer to solid waste that is not hazardous. According to the definition above, hazardous waste is solid waste. However, hazardous waste is excluded from the solid waste rules in Indiana.

 

WHY IS THIS INDICATOR INCLUDED IN MDCAT?

Solid waste sites can have multiple impacts on a community. Waste gases like methane and carbon dioxide can be released into the air from disposal sites for decades, even after site closure. Fires, although rare, can pose a health risk from exposure to smoke and ash. Odors and the known presence of solid waste may impair a community’s perceived desirability and affect the health and quality of life of nearby residents. Former abandoned disposal sites present potential for human or animal exposure to uncovered waste or burn ash.

 

HOW ARE solid WASTE sites MEASURED IN MDCAT?

  • Solid Waste Sites for Marion County were gathered from IndianaMap and IDEM’s solid waste permit webpage.
  • The indicator scores each census tract based on proximity to and type of solid waste sites.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Solid WASTE Sites?

  • Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s page on Solid Waste