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Why Is It So Hard To Breathe in Las Vegas? (Explained)

Why Is It So Hard To Breathe in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is one of the world’s most desired places to vacation. Many love it so much they even decide to move there permanently. But what’s the deal with the air quality?

It is so hard to breathe in Las Vegas because it has some of the poorest air quality in the country. It has higher-than-average ozone levels during spring and summer due to nearby wildfires, increased population, and vehicle emissions. There are also high particle pollution levels.  

This article will explain the reasons behind the poor air quality in Las Vegas. It will also discuss the sources of pollution. Read on for everything you need to know about why it’s so hard to breathe in Sin City.

Why Is the Air Quality So Bad in Las Vegas?

Why Is the Air Quality So Bad in Las Vegas

While Las Vegas is a beautiful and exciting place to visit, its poor air quality can also be somewhat challenging. However, it is not consistently bad throughout the entire year, and it has seasonal bouts of low quality.

The poor air quality can make living in the city harder for people with COPD and similar conditions. Anyone considering a move to Vegas should, therefore, visit the city when the air quality is at its worst so that they can decide if it’s acceptable for them. 

Air quality forecasts are made daily to allow Las Vegas visitors and residents to know how to plan their day. These forecasts will include information on how pollution levels will affect people with sensitivities and conditions.

Ozone and particulate debris are the main culprits behind poor air quality. But what kind of effects do they have?

Ground-Level Ozone Congests the Air

Ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog, is a significant factor in Las Vegas’s air quality levels. Ozone is essential to life on Earth when it is in the correct location. However, when it settles on the ground, it can become toxic to humans.

The Las Vegas and Henderson area have experienced a significant number of high ozone days annually, which has resulted in Clark County receiving an F grade on its report card from the American Lung Association on the annual State of the Air report.

It was also established that the county had 65 orange-level days, which indicated the ozone level was unhealthy for sensitive groups. The Las Vegas-Henderson area was ranked 11 out of 226 metropolitan areas for high ozone.

While the report showed an overall improvement in ozone-impacted days, Las Vegas still ranked high on the national list due to the other cities experiencing significant improvements in air quality.

According to the EPA, prolonged exposure to ozone can cause or exacerbate various health conditions, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Inflammation of the airways
  • Breathing difficulties

Particulate Debris Accumulates in the Air

Like with ozone, Las Vegas and Clark County also failed on 24-hour particle pollution levels, with 12 severe days. So, what exactly is particle pollution?

Particle pollution is a combination of microscopic liquids and solids suspended in the air. This can include the following substances:

  • Acids
  • Allergens
  • Metals
  • Dust
  • Organic materials

The smaller-sized particles are the most dangerous ones because they can enter the bloodstream and affect lung cells. Larger particles typically cause minor annoyances, such as red and scratchy eyes and nose irritation. 

While the area had a failing grade on 24-hour particle pollution levels, its annual grade was a pass. 

So, now that we know ozone and particle pollution are causing poor air quality in Las Vegas, what drives their increase in the city?

What Causes the Decrease of Air Quality in Las Vegas?

What Causes the Decrease of Air Quality in Las Vegas

An increase in air pollutants is the primary cause of the decrease in air quality in Las Vegas. These contaminants can cause an increase in the amount of ozone or particulate pollution present, making it harder to breathe in the city. [XX Biggest Causes of Air Pollution in Las Vegas]

Let’s look at where these pollutants come from: 

Wildfires in Surrounding Areas Cause an Influx of Smoke

Wildfires are becoming more frequent in the western United States, causing devastation in their wake. But you may not know that they are also causing severe problems for Las Vegas residents and visitors.

These fires are a primary source of particle pollution in the air and lead to ozone production. While they tend to be hundreds of miles away, the smoke travels and settles at ground level in the Las Vegas valley, disrupting the ability for people to breathe easily. 

This leads to excessive ozone production and particle pollution within the Las Vegas city limits. It is also not uncommon for there to be several days of smoke warnings throughout the drought season, with some years being on alert for the entire season.

Summer Is the Peak Ozone Season in Vegas

Ozone is created when volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as gasoline or another substance that emits fumes, combine with nitrogen oxides and are exposed to the sun’s heat. These nitrogen oxides can include emissions from car engines or factories.

While much of the ozone in Las Vegas is produced locally, the city also suffers from excessive background ozone, which comes from outside sources that are also non-controllable. These include ozone from the stratosphere and polluted air transported across the Pacific Ocean from Asia.

Ozone is generally higher during the warmer months when it interacts with the sun’s heat because the higher temperature assists in the generation of the pollutant.

For more information on the seasons and irritants in the atmosphere, you can watch this video:

Rapidly Increasing Population and Traffic in Las Vega

Another source of pollution is the increasing population of Las Vegas. With the rapidly rising number of residents comes more vehicles. 

Vehicle emissions significantly increase ozone production, especially during the spring and summer months in Las Vegas. As previously mentioned, these emissions combine with VOCs and bake in the sun’s heat.

One way to reduce this impact is to drive only when necessary and not let your vehicle idle.

Why Is It So Hard To Breathe in Las Vegas – Conclusion

Las Vegas may be one of the most exciting places to visit, but breathing here can be pretty difficult at times, especially if you have an existing respiratory condition. 

With ozone and particle pollution levels higher than average, breathing problems can worsen in the city. Be mindful of the air quality forecast, and you will still have an excellent vacation.

Wendy Mullennix

My name is Wendy Mullennix. I love travel & travel, in that order :) I'm also a Las Vegas local. I enjoy exploring this crazy city with my hubby and riding fat tire bikes in the desert.

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