Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) is a national leader when it comes to understanding and improving air quality at the local and regional levels. As technology, regulations, and the science around air quality continue to evolve, so too does our commitment to making Denver a world-class city where everyone who breathes matters!
What Is the City Doing to Improve Air Quality?
The Environmental Quality Division (EQD) is responsible for conducting compliance inspections of air emissions sources, enforcing state and local laws, monitoring pollutant trends, participating in legislative rulemakings, and working with community and industry partners.
Air Dispersion Modeling
The division uses computer models to predict ambient concentrations of hazardous air pollutants. Emissions from stationary, mobile and area-wide sources have been included in the modeling. Model predictions have been compared with measured concentrations to help evaluate the model performance and/or the emissions inventory.
The division responds to complaints about asbestos contamination, inspects facilities undergoing remodeling or demolition that contains asbestos, and reviews permits.
The division inspects large and small industrial, manufacturing and commercial air pollution sources located in the City and County of Denver for compliance with state and federal laws, state air pollution permits and local city ordinances. This includes inspections of facilities that emit criteria and hazardous air pollutants, as well as air conditioning sources that emit chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), which harm the earth’s protective ozone layer.
EQD responds to complaints received about fugitive dust and inspects industrial and construction sources of fugitive dust. Call 3-1-1 if you observe a fugitive dust problem.
High-Pollution Day Burning Ban
Particularly in the winter, Denver has high-pollution days for particulate matter (PM). It is prohibited for any person to operate a solid-fuel-fired device during a high-pollution day unless the device has been approved by the department or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (Denver Revised Municipal Code, Chapter 4, Article III, Section 4-24(c).
Check our Air Quality Forecast widget at the top of the page for high-pollution day alerts.
The division enforces the City’s smoking and idling vehicle ordinances, promotes the use of alternative fuels and alternative transportation and coordinates the City’s Green Fleets program.
Odors are regulated in the City and County of Denver, and the entire State of Colorado, as a nuisance issue — as opposed to a health issue. One of the difficulties faced by this and other environmental health departments is that odors, like other pollutants, do not abide by jurisdictional boundaries. Denver citizens are impacted by odor generating sources that are located outside of the city.
Open burning, including solid fuel (i.e. wood) fire pits, is prohibited in Denver County. It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in or allow open burning within the city except when a written permit has been issued by the department; provided, however, that permits will not be required for fires in devices designed and used exclusively for outdoor non-commercial cooking of food for human consumption nor for smokeless or safety flares used for the combustion of gases or used to indicate some danger to the public. (Denver Revised Municipal Code, Chapter 4, Article III, Section 4-24(a)(1)).
According to the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD), air pollutants from open burning can cause irritation to the nose and lungs and pose a threat to those suffering from respiratory conditions. Air pollutants from open burning have been linked to nervous system damage, kidney and liver damage, and reproductive and developmental disorders.
Additionally, “burning wood and vegetative products produce an array of harmful chemicals. Carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, formaldehyde, dioxin and hundreds of additional chemicals are released when wood and other products are burned. Burning plastics, tires, chemically treated wood products and other man-made materials also produces this type of air pollution and releases other toxic chemicals into the air. Tiny pieces of material, commonly called particulate matter, are created in the burning process and can be inhaled into our lungs.” (Reference: APCD Open Burning – FAQ)(PDF)
About Stationary Emissions
The Environmental Quality Division inspects large and small industrial, manufacturing and commercial air pollution sources located in the City and County of Denver for compliance with state and federal laws, state air pollution permits and local city ordinances. This includes inspections of facilities that emit criteria and hazardous air pollutants, as well as air conditioning sources that emit chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), which harm the earth’s protective ozone layer.
Learn more about air pollution in Colorado.
Air emissions info for industry and regulated sources. This page includes APENs, permitting documents, and guidance for calculating emissions, etc.
The History of Air Quality in Denver
Spectacular views and closeness to nature are just a couple of reasons why people choose to live in Denver. However, Denver's location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains makes it prone to temperature inversions in which warm air traps cooler air near the ground, preventing pollutants from rising into the atmosphere. From the 1970s into the early 1980s, the Denver area exceeded certain EPA air quality standards nearly 200 days annually. By the 1970s, air pollution hanging over the city even had a name — the brown cloud.
Since the 1980s through today, stricter federal emission guidelines for vehicles led to several technological advancements in engine design including catalytic converters, fuel injection and oxygen sensors. Industrial sources were also required to install pollution controls and implement best practices.
Since 1995, Denver is in attainment for all pollutants except ozone and the looming brown cloud is visibly reduced. Ozone continues to be a persistent problem during the summer and current activities are focused on reducing ground-level ozone.