Ozone and Particulates

Historically ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM) in the Kansas City region has been an air quality problem, and causes health problems for many citizens. Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas, and Jackson, Clay and Platte Counties in Missouri, currently make up the Kansas City "airshed". All of these counties partner with Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and Missouri Department of Natural Resources to protect public health.

There is an established "ozone season" for the Kansas City region; March 1st-October 31st every year. Historically, June through August is when most Ozone Alerts occur.


Ozone can be "good" or "bad" for health and the environment depending on where it is found in the atmosphere. Stratospheric ozone typically located 9 to 18 miles above the Earth's surface, is "good" because it protects us from ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It is stratospheric ozone that is being talked about when we say there is a hole in the ozone layer.

Ground-level ozone, the type that causes Ozone Alert Days, can impact a wide range of health problems including asthma and make it more difficult to breath. Learn more about ground-level ozone.

Health Effects of Ozone Pollution

The EPA has an online course for health professionals with information anyone can use to learn more about the health effects of ground-level ozone: Ozone and your Patients' Health: Training for Healthcare Providers 


the size of particulate matter

Particulate matter (PM) or particle pollution is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Examples include dust, dirt, soot, smoke, etc.

Particulate matter includes:

  • PM10: particles 10 micrometers or smaller
  • PM2.5: particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller

Where does PM come from?

Particulate matter can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals. Some come directly from a source, like construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks, or fires. While some particulate matter is formed in the atmosphere. 

Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter

Image courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency  

Criteria Air Pollutants

EPA has set national air quality standards (or health limits) for six air pollutants (also referred to as "Criteria Pollutants".) These are the six criteria pollutants:

  • carbon monoxide
  • ground level ozone
  • lead
  • nitrogen oxides
  • particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)
  • sulfur dioxide

Find out how each of these pollutants is formed, how they affect human health and public welfare, and what is being done to reduce them at EPA's Six Common Air Pollutants. EPA is required by the Clean Air Act to periodically review the standards for each of these pollutants to ensure that the standard is protective of human health and the environment. 

Air Pollutant Movies and Maps

Real-time air monitoring data show the Air Quality Index (AQI) which is the current pollutant with the highest concentration throughout the region. Most of the time you will notice ozone forming in the urban area and then moving "out of town" by the afternoon.

These maps show how air pollutants can travel over time. Both ozone and particulate matter can be affected by weather patterns, and are also impacted by other sources. For example, Kansas City's air quality can be impacted by burning in the Flint Hills. 

EPA's AirNow Maps