2010 Feb. 3: OH Hamilton County: Improve Air Quality this winter
Improve Air Quality this Winterby Kristy Kim, Public Relations Specialist
Summer isn’t the only time when smog and particulate matter (PM) are an issue. Although high levels of smog are typically associated with the summer due to more intense sunlight and warmer temperatures, smog can occur throughout the year. Winter can create conditions for smog alerts due to PM and is a serious concern for air quality in the region. In the winter, most PM pollution comes from burning in fireplaces, wood stoves and from idling cars. Particulate matter is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets of pollution suspended in the air. PM is made up of a number of components including acid, aerosols, organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust particles, and allergens. PM is one of the six criteria air pollutants monitored and regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, is among the most harmful of all air pollutants. When inhaled, these particles evade the respiratory system’s natural defenses and lodge deep in the lungs. PM2.5 is especially harmful to people with lung diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, as well as people with heart disease. Exposure to PM pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause wheezing, coughing, and respiratory irritation in individuals with sensitive airways. Symptoms of PM exposure include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, phlegm, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
There are multiple ways you can help reduce wintertime PM. The Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services (HCDOES) offers the following useful tips for reducing particulate matter, protecting your health, reducing energy consumption and saving money.
Limit idling your vehicle. Yes, it is wintertime and no one enjoys the biting weather or a freezing cold car, but the best way to warm up your car is by driving it! Waiting minutes for your car to heat up not only wastes gas, it also pollutes the air and poses a health threat. Make an effort to not idle your car more than 30 seconds. Properly maintaining your vehicle through regular oil changes and maintenance services is also recommended. A poorly maintained vehicle pollutes as much as 25 times more than a well-maintained vehicle.
Use alternative transportation whenever possible. Carpool, ride the bus, or walk to your destination. • METRO: 513-621-4455 or TANK: 859-331-8265 • RideShare: 513-241-RIDE
Conserve energy by turning off the lights when you leave a room, unplugging unused appliances and electronics and replacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescent light (CFLs).
Reduce your heating needs by winter weatherizing your house. Place clear, plastic sheeting on your windows to reduce cold drafts and caulk and weatherstrip any doors and windows that leak air. Keep draperies and shades on your south facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill. Purchase a programmable thermostat and set the temperature as low as is comfortable. Temperatures in the range of 66°F and 68°F are recommended. For every one degree you set your thermostat lower, you can save 1-3% on your heating costs. It is also recommended to properly maintain and clean heating equipment. Furnace filters should be replaced regularly.
To reduce dangerous particulate matter, refrain from the use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. If you do use your fireplace, burn only clean, seasoned wood and non-glossy paper, build small, hot fires instead of large smoldering ones and watch your chimney for smoke and have it inspected often. You can also upgrade your fireplace to a gas fireplace or purchase a fireplace insert.
Through small steps, you can do your share for cleaner air this winter. For more information visit our website at www.hcdoes.org. You can view the Air Quality Index (AQI) and real-time particulate levels in the area. You can also visit www.epa.gov/burnwise/ to learn more about making safe, informed decisions when burning.