On October 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new eight-hour standard of 70 ppb for ground-level ozone, one of the principal components of smog. For more information, see New Ozone Standard.

Air quality standards define clean air. They tell us how much of a substance can be in the air without causing harm, based on proven scientific and medical research. Both the federal and state governments set air quality standards. In most cases, California’s standards are more protective of health. The Attainment Designation tells us whether our air meets these health standards.

Federal standards have been established for seven pollutants:

  1. carbon monoxide
  2. lead
  3. nitrogen dioxide
  4. ozone
  5. respirable particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10)
  6. fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), and
  7. sulfur dioxide.

California state standards exist for all of these, plus four more:

  1. sulfates
  2. hydrogen sulfide
  3. vinyl chloride (chloroethene), and
  4. visibility reducing particles.

These are the only pollutants – out of hundreds in our air – for which standards have been set. There is not enough known about the health effects of other pollutants to set air quality standards. View the State and Federal Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Santa Barbara County was designated unclassifiable/attainment for the 2008 federal 8-hour ozone standard on April 30, 2012. (The 1-hour federal ozone standard was revoked for Santa Barbara County). The California 8-hour ozone standard was implemented in May, 2006. The County violates the state 8-hour ozone standard and the state standard for PM10. The County is unclassifiable/attainment for the federal PM2.5 standard and unclassified for the state PM2.5 standard (based on monitored data from 2007 – 2009).

To view historical statistics on ozone and particle pollution levels in Santa Barbara County and other areas of the state, visit the California Air Resources Board air quality data base.

Santa Barbara County Attainment/Nonattainment Classification Summary 2013

Pollutant Averaging Time California Standards National Standards
Concentration Attainment Status Concentration Attainment Status
8 hour 0.070 ppm N 0.075 ppm U/A*
1 hour 0.09 ppm (180 µg/m3) N
Carbon Monoxide
8 hour 9.0 ppm (10 mg/m3) A 9.0 ppm (10 m/m3) A
1 hour 20.0 ppm (23 mg/m3) A 35.0 ppm (40 µg/m3) A
Nitrogen Dioxide***
annual average 0.030 ppm (56 µg/m3) A 53 ppb U/A
1 hour 0.18 ppm (338 µg/m3) A 100 ppb U/A
Sulfur Dioxide
annual average Revoked
24 hour 0.04 ppm (105 µg/m3) A Revoked
1 hour 0.25 ppm (655 µg/m3) A 75 ppb ****

Particulate Matter (PM10)

annual arithmetic mean 20 µg/m3 N revoked A
24 hour 50 µg/m3 N 150 µg/m3 A

Particulate Matter – Fine (PM2.5)

annual arithmetic mean 12µg/m3 U 12.0 µg/m3 U/A
24 hour 35 µg/m3** U/A
24 hour 25 µg/m3 A
calendar quarter 1.5 µg/m3 A
30 day average 1.5 µg/m3 A
Rolling 3-month Average 0.15 µg/m3 U
Hydrogen Sulfide
1 hour 0.03 ppm (42 µg/m3) A
Vinyl Chloride (chloroethene)
24 hour 0.010 ppm (26 µg/m3)
Visibility Reducing Particles
8 hour (1000 to 1800 PST) A

A=Attainment N=Nonattainment U=Unclassified U/A=Unclassifiable/Attainment

mg/m3=milligrams per cubic meter ppm=parts per million µg/m3=micrograms per cubic meter–  = No Standard


* EPA strengthened the 8 hour ozone standard from the 1997 level of .08 ppm to .075 ppm on May 27, 2008, but delayed implementation of the standard.  Designations for the 2008 standard were finalized on April 30, 2012.  For more information, see EPA’s website.

** EPA strengthened the 24-hour fine particle standard from the 1997 level of 65 ug/m3 to 35 ug/m3 on September 21, 2006.  The annual standard was strengthened from 15 to 12.0 ug/m3 on January 15, 2013.

*** The state Nitrogen Dioxide ambient air quality standard was amended on February 22, 2007, to lower the 1-hour standard to 0.18 ppm and establish a new annual standard of 0.030 ppm.   On January 22, 2010,  EPA set a new 1-hour NO2 standard  of 100 ppb.  They also retained the annual NO2 standard of 53 ppb.

****  EPA has not yet made final designations on attainment status.  For more information, see EPA’s website.