The Causes

Air pollution is caused by solid and liquid particles and certain gases that become suspended into the air. The top air pollution contributors are discussed below. 

Human Activity 

Human activity is behind most air pollution, however, there are ways to keep our air clean. There are plenty of simple commitments each of us can make to reduce air pollution. The Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD) website offers several tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to help everyone breathe easier! It is important to know the rules and stay up to date with current air quality restrictions through the MCAQD widget, mobile app, and/or website.

Cars, Trucks, and ATVs

Exhaust from cars is a significant contributor to particulate pollution. Being the single occupant in a vehicle on a regular basis adds pollution to the air. Additionally, driving off-highway vehicles (OHV) on dirt and unpaved roads stirs up particulate matter that pollutes the air unnecessarily. OHV activity is restricted on most High Pollution Advisory days.

OHV Video:

Leaf Blowers and Lawn and Garden Equipment

Leaf blowers and gas-powered lawn and garden equipment cause large amounts of dust, making these activities one of the primary causes of course particulate matter air pollution. The best alternative to a dust producing leaf blower is a rake or broom. Leaf blower use is restricted on government property during a High Pollution Advisory. The use of electric lawn and garden equipment is also strongly recommended.

Weed Removal Video:

Wood burning

Burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves, as well as burning leaves, trash, or other materials, contributes significantly to particulate matter, specifically PM2.5 (or smoke). Historically during the winter holidays, the greater Phoenix area experiences PM2.5 levels three times higher than usual, primarily due to wood burning fires. Wood burning in residential fireplaces, chimineas, outdoor fire pits, and similar outdoor fires are restricted during a High Pollution Advisory. This restriction includes wood burning fires at hotels and restaurants.

Regulated Industry

Many of the man-made sources of particulate matter include dust from construction activities, vacant lots, dirt roads, and off-road areas where people have destabilized soil. Dirt that is tracked-out onto roads by vehicles causes problems because the dirt is constantly disturbed by vehicles driving over it, creating dust. The Maricopa County Air Quality Department's Compliance and Enforcement Division prioritizes inspecting these areas, as well as complaints for open-burning and/or indoor wood burning on High Pollution Advisory days.

Commercial Ballooning Video:

Unpaved Parking Video:

Page reviewed 29 September 2023