Talking about a double whammy, pollen counts are giving a lot of us serious sneezing, red eyes, and breathing problems. Now, it is also the beginning of ozone season, a real air pollution problem in our region. When high pollen counts and air pollution occur together, their combined effects are even worse.
And while we can’t do much about pollen (check pollen counts here http://www.nynjpollen.com/), we can take a few steps to reduce ozone levels. That is why the DEP is kicking off the Air Quality Week between May 1-5 to educate the public about the health impacts of ozone and what to do to protect ourselves. Some things to know and actions to take to protect your health and the environment:
- Ozone in the stratosphere is good because it protects the earth from ultraviolet rays. Ozone at the ground level is harmful for plants and humans. Elevated levels of ground ozone can trigger coughing, throat irritation, congestion, and can worsen bronchitis and asthma. Ground ozone levels can be reduced by conserving energy, not idling, and driving less.
- Ground level ozone is also known as smog and it is the large health threat in New Jersey. Smog damages lung tissue, and impacts natural photosynthesis in plants. Protect yourself when ozone levels are high by limiting outdoor activities. You can monitor air quality by signing up for alerts at http://www.gmtma.org/pg-community-air-quality.php.
- Ozone levels in New Jersey have decreased in the past 10 years but we still have a lot to do.
- Energy consumption is one of the big causes of air pollution because power plants release greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Turn off electronic devices when they are not used, unplug extra refrigerators if they are rarely used
The Air Quality Partnership, a program of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) also encourages ozone reducing actions such as:
- Take transit or rideshare.
- Don’t top off your gas tank. Spillage adds two tons of pollution to the air each day.
- Refuel at the end of the day. Ozone levels are highest in mid- to late-afternoon.
- Be sure to clean out your trunk, since an extra 100 pounds reduces gas mileage by up to 2% and wastes fuel.
- Trip-link when possible. Combining errands with your daily commute will save time, money, and the environment.
- Follow regular maintenance schedules for your car. A properly running vehicle emits less pollution and saves gas.
- Check your owner’s manual and properly inflate your tires. Properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage up to 3.3%.
- When changing your oil, use a manufacturer-recommended grade motor oil to improve fuel economy by 1-2%.
If you want to further reduce your carbon footprint, learn how to reduce waste and save money along the way here.
Be air aware to enjoy an easy breathing Spring!