2010 March 19: AK Fairbanks: Proposal-Rough Draft: A Proposal to Educate the Public and Improve Air Quality in Fairbanks
A Proposal to Educate the Public and Improve Air Quality in Fairbanks
The city of Fairbanks has struggled with the problem of air pollution for over forty years. According to the State of
Alaska Department of Air Monitoring and Quality Assurance (DEC AQ), the problem continues to get worse every year.
Fairbanks was declared a non-attainment area by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December of 2008.
Research results posted on the DEC AQ website shows that the particulate level of the air in Fairbanks often far exceeds
the safe air pollution levels set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although some people are aware
of the high level of air pollution in Fairbanks, Alaska, the citizens of Fairbanks should work with the Department of
Environmental Conservation to implement a program that will educate the public on air pollution because
Fairbanksans need to know what air pollution they are living with, they need to understand how this pollution affects
their health and environment, and they need to understand what they can do to reduce the air pollution.
According to the State of Alaska Division of Air Quality, the particulate level (PM2.5) refers to both liquid and solid
matter that is suspended in the air. This matter could be sulfate, nitrate, chemicals, dust, pollen, mold spores, metal,
and anything else that remains suspended in the air we breathe. Air pollution is a problem because the cold air located
directly above the city is trapped beneath the warmer air above. Thus, all the pollutants emitted from vehicles,
wood-burning, and power plants are retained in the air that Fairbanksans are breathing. On days that air quality
deemed good by the DEC AQ the air can still be alarmingly close to moderate air quality. Many people are unaware of
the fact that the air the quality in Fairbanks often far exceeds the normal safe air quality levels; and that is one of the
primary reasons why the public needs to be educated as to the fact that an air quality problem exists in Fairbanks. It is
very hard for the public to address and attempt to rectify a problem that they are not even aware exists. If a group of
about ten people were to compile the information on air pollution with the help of the Department of Environmental
Conservation, break the compiled reports and data down into more user friendly terms, and educate the public on the
problems of air pollution, half of the battle on air pollution would already be won. For many people, just being aware
that a problem exists would be enough to motivate them to help fix the issue.
Not only will this education program inform the public that an air pollution problem exists in Fairbanks, but it will
also inform the public of the health and environmental issues associated with current levels of air pollution. Those who
may not have take action once they realize Fairbanks has high levels of air pollution may decide to make a difference
for the better once they are informed that it is affecting the health of both people and their environment. According to
research reported on the DEC AQ website, high PM2.5 levels pose a significant health risk. In one specific instance the
health of elementary school children at Woodriver Elementary was at risk due to high PM2.5 levels where the school is
located. High levels of PM2.5 have been associated with increased death rate. According to the DEC AQ these particles
can get into a person’s lungs and or blood stream causing respiratory and cardiopulmonary health problems.
Implementation of a public education program would not only include holding informational classes for the public, but
would also include the posting of flyers around the Fairbanks area to inform the public of current air pollution and
available educational classes. There would also be appeals to local radio and television stations for non-profit space to
make advertisements informing the public about pollution in the Fairbanks area.
This public education program will not only inform Fairbanksans of Fairbanks air pollution and the effects it has, but
it will also inform the public as to how they can personally contribute to making the air safer for everyone to breath.
One of the largest contributions that can be made to reduce the air pollution problem is for people burn dry wood
instead of green wood. The brining of dry wood does not contribute as greatly to the PM2.5 levels as does green wood.
Those individuals that use outdoor wood boilers are making a huge contribution to the air pollution levels. Air
pollution can be reduced by plugging vehicles in at lower temperatures and not letting them idle for excessive periods
Overall, a properly informed public will aid greatly in the reduction of air pollution in Fairbanks. People will also
start communicating information on air pollution to other people as they become more informed about the issue. As
people start taking action within the community and their own homes; the air pollution levels will be reduced.
Department of Environmental Conservation. (n.d.). Air Quality PM2.5 Fact/Information Sheet
2/25/10. Retrieved on March 16, 2010 from http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/HotTopics/Air
Department of Environmental Conservation. (n.d.). Wildfire Smoke/Particulate Information.
Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://www.dec.state.ak.us/air/am/smoke.htm