Friday, May 15, 2009

May is Clean Air Month

Earlier this month, the The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board released its annual California Almanac of Emissions and Air Quality that shows a dramatic improvement in air quality in two of the historically troubled areas - Southern California and the Central Valley - despite increased trucking, port activities and population growth.

The almanac indicates pollutants have dropped significantly over the last 20 years in both San Joaquin Valley and the South Coast Air basins, while ozone levels have decreased approximately 10 percent in the San Joaquin Valley and 35 percent in the South Coast Air basins since 1990. Fine particulate matter in the South Coast region has decreased nearly 35 percent and the San Joaquin Valley 20 percent for the period of 1999 to 2007 namely due to regulations aimed at reducing ozone and coarse particulate matter.

In celebration of Clean Air Month, the Board offers 50 helpful tips below for how you can do your part to help clean up the air.

Drive Less

In California, about half the air pollution comes from cars and trucks. Two big ways to reduce air pollution are to drive less, even a little less, and to drive smart. Fewer trips in your car or truck will help cut air pollution. And how you drive can reduce your car's air pollution contribution.

Driving less doesn't mean you have to stay home. Try combining driving with other ways of getting where you want to go:

1. Carpool.
2. Walk or ride a bike.
3. Shop by phone or mail.
4. Ride public transit.
5. Telecommute.

Drive Smart

Driving smart keeps pollution at a minimum:

6. Accelerate gradually.
7. Use cruise control on the highway.
8. Obey the speed limit.
9. Combine your errands into one trip.
10. Keep your car tuned and support the Smog Check Program.
11. Don't top off at the gas pump.
12. Replace your car's air filter.
13. Keep your tires properly inflated.
14. Report smoking vehicles.

Call #SMOG on your cellular phone.
Call your local air pollution control district or 1 (800) END-SMOG
That's not all. When shopping for your next car...

15. Look for the most efficient, lowest polluting model or even a zero-polluting electric
car. (Check out ARB's Guide to Cleaner Cars).
And if you must drive on days with unhealthy air...

16. Drive your newest car. Newer cars generally pollute less than older models.

Choose Air-Friendly Products

Many products you use in your home, in the yard, or at the office are made with smog-forming chemicals that escape into the air when you use them. Here's a few ways to put a lid on products that pollute:

17. Select products that are water-based or have low amounts of volatile organic
compounds (VOCs).
18. Use water-based paints. Look for paints labeled zero-VOC.
19. Paint with a brush, not a sprayer.
20. Store solvents in air-tight containers.
21. Use a push or electric lawn mower.
22. Start your barbecue briquettes with an electric probe. Or use a
propane or natural gas barbecue.

Save Energy

Saving energy helps reduce air pollution. Whenever you burn a fossil fuel, you pollute the air. Use less gasoline, natural gas, and electricity (power plants burn fossil fuels to generate electricity):

23. Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
24. Replace energy-hungry incandescent lights with fluorescent lighting.
25. Check with your utility company for energy conservation tips.
26. Use a programmable thermostat that automatically turns off
the air conditioner or heater when you don't need them.
27. Add insulation to your home.
28. Use a fan instead of air conditioning.
29. Use an EPA-approved wood burning stove or fireplace insert.
30. Microwave small meals.
31. Insulate your water heater.
32. Install low-flow shower heads.

Waste Not

It takes energy to make and sell the products we use. Here are ways to cut energy use, reduce air pollution, and save money.

33. Choose recycled products.
34. Choose products with recyclable packaging.
35. Reuse paper bags.
36. Recycle paper, plastics, and metals.
37. Print and photocopy on both sides of paper.

Watch Out for the Small Stuff

When you breathe, very small particles such as dust, soot, and acid droplets can slip past your lung's natural defense system. These particles get stuck deep in your lungs and may cause problems increased asthma attacks, more bronchitis and other lung diseases, less resistance to infections, and even premature death for the elderly or people who are already ill. Here are a few things you can do to reduce PM10 pollution and protect yourself:

38. Don't use your wood stove or fireplace on days with unhealthy air.
39. Avoid using leaf blowers and other types of equipment that
raise a lot of dust. Try using a rake or broom.
40. Drive slowly on unpaved roads.
41. Drive less, particularly on days with unhealthy air.
42. Avoid vigorous physical activity on days with unhealthy air.

Know the Inside Story

Air pollution is a problem indoors and out. Most people spend at least 80 percent of their lives indoors. Here are some ways you can reduce pollution in your home, office, or school:

43. Don't smoke. If someone must smoke, send them outdoors.
44. Some products such as cleaning agents, paints, and glues
contain dangerous chemicals. Use them outdoors or with
plenty of ventilation indoors.
45. Use safer products, such as baking soda instead of harsher
46. Don't heat your home with a gas cooking stove.
47. Have your gas appliances and heater regularly inspected
and maintained.
48. Clean frequently to remove dust and molds.

Speak Up for Clean Air

Now that you have read these tips, you know more about reducing air pollution than most people. Try some of the ways described above. It will make a difference. Then, let other people know what you've found out.:

49. Write to your local paper. Support action for healthy air.
50. Let your elected representatives know you support action for cleaner air.

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