2010 March 8: PA North Penn: Partnership TMA column: How does ozone (& particulates) fit?

2010 March 8: PA North Penn: Partnership TMA column: How does ozone (& particulates) fit?

Published: Monday, March 8, 2010

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Take a deep breath. Did it hurt when you inhaled? Exhaled?

Painful or compromised breathing is a problem for millions of Americans. And, air pollution can make their breathing even worse.

You might have heard of ozone but how does it fit in to the air pollution problem?

Ozone is helpful when it forms a protective layer 10 to 30 miles above the Earth that reduces harmful ultraviolet rays coming from the sun.

Ozone is harmful as a colorless odorless gas that humans inhale. It comes from car and bus exhaust, gas station and factory emissions.

Its threat is particularly severe during warmer months when it is "baked" by sunlight and heat.

Persons suffering from asthma, emphysema and other lung ailments can get sick just from being outside for short periods of time during the summer.

Fine particulate matter, or PM, is a "friend" of ozone that can be especially harmful to humans when inhaled.

PM consists of tiny liquid droplets and solid materials such as ash, dust, pollen and smoke in the air.

These abrasive items irritate the lungs and airways in persons with compromised breathing, seniors and children.

The Air Quality Partnership (AQP) is a local coalition of public and private partners who work together to combat air pollution by informing the general public how they can help to decrease ozone and fine particulate matter levels.

Administered by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), one of its primary duties is to alert the public whenever there is an "action" day or one where the ozone level might cause problems to persons with breathing problems.

Its Air Quality Index (AQI) ranges from good or non-harmful levels (green) to yellow (moderate) to orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) and red (unhealthy for most people).

Here are some tips to help combat air pollution:

t Do not top off your gas tank when filling (to avoid spillage).

t Limit outdoor activity on red-alert days if you have lung ailments or problems breathing.

t Buy pump spray bottles instead of aerosol products, if possible. Aerosol cans contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that eat away at the protective ozone layer.

t Avoid vehicle idling by walking into building instead of using drive-through lanes. This unnecessary exhaust contributes greatly to air pollution.

t Do not use charcoal lighter fluid or gas-powered lawn mowers on high-alert days

t Ask whether your employer offers flex time, telecommuting, vanpools, carpools or shuttles.

Residents and businesses can receive air quality alerts via email by signing up at www.airqualitypartnership.org.

You can choose your settings so that you receive a daily notification or an alert on orange or red days only.

For more information on ozone and air pollution, contact the Mobility Hotline at (866) 507-4857 (toll free) or info@ptma-mc.org.

Anthony Johnson is operations manager of the The Partnership TM. This column appears every other week.

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