We All Can Take Steps to Reduce Air Pollution During Ozone Season and Year Round


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With high temperatures in the forecast, West Virginia’s ozone levels may be elevated periodically through the rest of the summer. Because of that, citizens are reminded that they can take steps to keep pollutants out of the air and out of our lungs. While it’s important to make smart choices related to air pollution every day, air quality impacts can be felt even more during ozone season because the pollutants are kept closer to ground level. Even small steps from individuals to reduce those impacts can add up to big results from the entire community. Those steps include:

• Choosing a cleaner commute: Transportation choices can play a significant role in air quality improvement. Choose alternatives to driving such as taking the bus, carpooling, biking or walking to your destination. If those alternatives are not options, try these tips: turn off your engine instead of idling; keep tires properly inflated for better fuel usage; keep your car, boat and other engines properly tuned; combine trips; and, refuel in the evening hours when the fumes won’t combine with the sun’s heat to increase ozone levels.

• Being careful with chemicals. Use household, workshop, and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or, even better, don’t use them at all when poor air quality is forecast. It’s also recommended that you try to use environmentally safe chemicals whenever possible.

• Letting the yard work wait. Put off lawn and gardening chores that use gasoline-powered equipment until a day when ozone levels aren’t high, or wait until evening.

• Conserving electricity. Set your air conditioner at a higher temperature, especially when you’re not home, and turn off lights and unplug electrical devices when not in use. Another good way to conserve electricity, and water as well, is to wait until your dishwasher and washing machine are full before running them. It’s also a good idea to look for energy efficient appliances and equipment when replacing them.

You can check the daily Air Quality Index (AQI) for nine areas in West Virginia by visiting DEP’s DAQ page here. The AQI is reported for Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown, Moundsville, Parkersburg, Weirton and Wheeling year round. The reported index is the calculated value for the past 24 hours and is updated Monday through Friday. During ozone season, April 1 through Oct. 31, Greenbrier County and Martinsburg information is also reported. Please note that AQI values also can vary depending on the time of day. Ozone levels often peak in the afternoon.

Ground-level, or tropospheric, ozone develops because of interactions of man-made and natural emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in the presence of heat and sunlight. Cars and gasoline-burning engines are large sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other VOC sources include paints, insecticides and cleaners, as well as industrial solvents and chemical manufacturing. Nitrogen oxides (NOx), the other chemical precursor of ozone, are produced through the burning of fossil fuels and are produced primarily by motor vehicles and power plants.

Many factors impact ground-level ozone development, including temperature, wind speed and direction, time of day and driving patterns. In West Virginia, ozone is typically a summertime pollutant due to its dependence on weather conditions.

For more information about ozone and air pollution prevention measures, visit the U.S. EPA’s website here or the AirNow site here

For more DEP news and information, go to www.dep.wv.gov. Also, be sure to connect with the agency on all social media platforms. Follow @DEPWV on Twitter and find us on YouTube by searching “Environment Matters.” For specific information about our REAP (Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan), West Virginia Project WET (Water Education for Teachers), West Virginia Watershed Improvement Branch, Youth Environmental Program and Human Resources initiatives, connect on Facebook. 


Kelley Gillenwater