Cleaning Up the Air in Fairbanks, AK

More than a thousand health studies have shown that PM2.5 air pollution causes a wide range of serious health problems, including asthma attacks, chronic respiratory disease, reduction in lung function, hospitalizations and emergency room visits for cardiopulmonary diseases, cancer, and even premature death.

Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has some of the worst and most dangerous air quality in the nation. Alaska community groups have joined together to demand that responsible officials address the problems that Borough residents and their families face when simply breathing in Fairbanks.

The type of fine particulate matter pollution prevalent in Fairbanks—2.5 micrometers or less in diameter—has been found to cause a wide range of serious health problems, including asthma attacks, chronic respiratory disease, reduction in lung function, hospitalizations and emergency room visits for cardiopulmonary diseases, cancer, and even premature death. Fine particulate matter air pollution is of particular danger to children, reducing lung development, causing asthma, and impairing the immune system. The elderly and those with chronic disease also face heightened risks.

Of all the areas that fail to meet EPA air quality standards for this pollutant (referred to as PM2.5 by the EPA), Fairbanks has the worst episodic pollution in the country — with levels spiking to almost double the next most-polluted area and nearly four-times the recommended limit for unhealthy air.

Sources of PM2.5 in Fairbanks include outdoor burning; wood- and coal-burning heating devices; automobiles and other vehicles; and industrial facilities like coal-fired power plants.

The air pollution problems have worsened since 2009, when state and municipal officials were first advised that soot and smoke levels in Fairbanks were unhealthy and dangerous.

Pollution in Fairbanks, Alaska, during a winter heat inversion.
Pollution in Fairbanks, Alaska, during a winter heat inversion. (Alaska DEC)

Case Updates

August 1, 2022 Press Release

Severe Human Health Risks Ongoing in Fairbanks as EPA Fails to Address Some of the Nation’s Worst Air Pollution

Groups give notice of intent to file suit against EPA for repeat failures to meet Clean Air Act

October 23, 2019 Document

October 2019 Consent Decree Order on Fairbanks Air

EPA and the State of Alaska must come up with a clean air action plan for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Air pollution hangs over Fairbanks, Alaska.
December 14, 2018 Press Release

With No Response From EPA, Fairbanks Community Groups File Suit to Force EPA to Address Pollution

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has the worst episodes of fine particulate matter air pollution in the nation, but EPA has yet to take adequate action