Summer is here and it is time to be air aware.  In our region the worst air quality is seen in the summer and breathing the air can lead to health problems, especially for sensitive groups like the elderly, children, and people with immune system problems. Here is makes the air bad, how it can affect Mounties, and what Mounties can do to help make it cleaner.

Over the years air quality has gotten much better due to Federal and State regulations but there are still problems in the DC area. The two main types of pollution we are concerned about are fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone, which together often get called haze or smog. Ozone and PM2.5 have been linked to premature death, heart attacks, lung disease, and asthma, there are other potential effects that are still being researched. The DC metro area is not meeting the Federal ozone standard and while it is technically in compliance with Federal PM2.5 standards many scientists say the standards should be stricter.

The air is not bad every day but there are days when air quality is a concern, mostly during the summer during the late afternoon and early evening. To get forecasts and alerts of when the air is bad you can sign up for email alerts here “Code orange” means the air is bad for sensitive people and “code red” means it is bad for everyone.

Much of the pollution is caused by burning fuel or releasing volatile gases. To help reduce pollution on bad air days, you can:

  • Take public transit or bike – cars are the #1 cause of air pollution in the DC area
  • Put off yard work if you use gas equipment or go electric
  • Don’t refuel your car since the gas vapors are volatile
  • Don’t paint or use turpentine since the vapors are also volatile

Even if it isn’t a bad air day, if your check engine light is on in your car, get it fixed: that light means your car probably is a big polluter.

So this summer be air aware, know when the air is bad, keep you and yours safe when it is, and do your part to keep our air cleaner.