Thursday, September 2, 2010

The State of the Air in SA

The American Lung Association has posted its State of the Air City Rankings.  Cities were rated by the amount of ozone in the air, year round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution. The 25
Worst Cities were slightly different for each category.  Luckily, San Antonio didn't make any of the lists, but that doesn't mean we have nothing to worry about.  The ALA gave SA a failing grade for the 34 orange ozone action days it logged during the reporting period.  Orange means unhealthy for sensitive populations, like people with asthma, lung problems and the elderly.

Morning Edition's story on heat waves and air pollution reported that

Ozone and fine particles are the two types of pollution that trigger Code Red and Orange days. Both are formed out of exhaust from power plants, cars and a lot of other things. With ozone "the two bad chemical actors are oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons," Edelman says. "When they're exposed to heat and sunlight, a chemical reaction takes place which releases ozone." And when people breathe it in, it irritates their lungs, which are as fragile as the inside of eyelids.
Children are particularly susceptible  because their air passageways are much smaller than adults.  Asthma attacks are brought on by inflammation of the lungs which is caused by breathing in harmful irritants, so children with asthma are at higher risk on ozone action days and are not allowed outside. 

Breathing in ozone and particulate matter can also cause asthma symptoms in otherwise healthy children.  This study published in the Lancet by R. McConnell, found that

In communities with high ozone concentrations, the relative risk of developing asthma in children playing three or more sports was 3·3 (95% CI 1·9–5·8), compared with children playing no sports. Sports had no effect in areas of low ozone concentration (0·8, 0·4–1·6). Time spent outside was associated with a higher incidence of asthma in areas of high ozone (1·4, 1·0–2·1), but not in areas of low ozone. Exposure to pollutants other than ozone did not alter the effect of team sports.

The good news for Texas is that air quality is improving.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has tips on what you can do to improve the air.

Tips for Citizens: 10 Things You Can Do

  • Share a ride to work or school.
  • Avoid morning rush-hour traffic.
  • Walk or ride a bicycle.
  • Take your lunch to work or school.
  • Combine errands into one trip.
  • Avoid drive-through lanes.
  • Postpone refueling until after 6 p.m.
  • Don't top off your gas tank when refueling.
  • Postpone using gas engines such as lawnmowers until after 6 p.m.
  • Keep your vehicle properly tuned to keep exhaust levels low.

Tips for Business and Industry:
Small Steps, Big Solutions

  • Shift work schedules to allow employees to avoid morning rush-hour traffic.
  • Allow employees to work at home (telecommuting).
  • Offer bus passes.
  • For employees who rideshare or use public transportation, provide a guaranteed emergency ride home.
  • Carpool to lunch and meetings.
  • Schedule meetings that don't require driving (meet on site or make conference calls).
  • Offer free drinks at your cafeteria to encourage employees to eat at work.
  • Postpone fueling fleet vehicles until after 6 p.m.
  • Postpone working with mowers, bulldozers, backhoes, tractors, and other two-cycle engine activities.
  • Delay painting, degreasing, tank cleaning, ground maintenance, and road repair.
  • Postpone routine flaring or venting of hydrocarbons.
  • Postpone the loading and hauling of volatile organic compound (VOC).
  • Postpone VOC-producing activities such as chemical treatment and catalyst preparation.
  • Switch loads to fired heaters or boilers with low nitrogen oxide burners.
To find out the daily air quality forecast check out the AirNow website.  Looks like it's gonna be a Good day in SA.

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