The week of May 3-7 has been designated as National Air Quality Awareness Week, state air regulators announced. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is joining the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the national effort to make citizens aware of simple daily choices which can affect their air quality.
Throughout the year, there are days when air quality could pose potential health risks such as asthma and lung problems in certain populations. While the DAQ works to make the air cleaner across West Virginia through air quality standards and rules reducing pollution from industrial sources, residents can make a difference as well.
“Becoming aware of how you affect air quality daily by the simple choices you make, such as idling your car or using gasoline engine lawn equipment, is the first step. Individuals can make a big difference by making small behavioral changes,” said John Benedict, DAQ’s director.
Ground-level ozone and particulate matter are two pollutants of particular concern to West Virginia residents. High spring and summer temperatures combine with emissions from vehicles, power plants, and fuel and solvent vapors to elevate ozone levels. For that reason, ozone monitoring season starts on April 1 and runs through Oct. 31. Particulate matter also increases during the summer months because of emissions from construction projects, increased power usage for air conditioners and forest fires.
Transportation choices can play a significant role in air quality improvement especially in ozone season. Choose alternatives to driving -- take the bus, carpool, bike or walk to your destination. If alternatives are not an option, try these tips: turn off your engine instead of idling; keep your tires properly inflated for better fuel usage; combine trips; and, refuel in the evening hours when fumes from refueling won’t combine with the sun’s heat to increase ozone levels.
Any time you use energy, you contribute to air pollution. Using CFL lights and energy efficient appliances not only reduce air pollution, they help save you money.
Most people do not associate air pollution with mowing the lawn. Emission controls for small gasoline engines have not been a crucial design consideration until now. Consequently, small engines are big polluters. Consider buying electric or battery-powered equipment. If using gasoline equipment, prevent spills and overfills. Even small gasoline spills evaporate and pollute the air and groundwater.
For more information on Air Quality Awareness Week, visit the DEP’s website (www.dep.wv.gov) and click on the Air Quality Awareness Week spotlight or www.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/. Information on West Virginia’s air quality may be obtained by visiting www.dep.wv.gov/daq.