Summer is here with vacations and pool parties in the air! Something else starts to lurk in the air, so much so the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality alerts the public about it. What is it that is in the air that we need to be alerted? Air quality is determined by ground-level ozone and particle pollution.
A recent alert read: “Atmospheric conditions are expected to be favorable for producing high levels of ozone air pollution in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Monday.”
Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight and heat, making it a summertime pollutant. Air pollutants from car exhaust, paint, aerosol products, and manufacturing emissions are some of the major contributions to ground-level ozone. Particulate matter (PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye.
The commission also gives the public information on how to prevent, not just reduce ozone pollution.
Here are some ozone reducing tips from the Take Care of Texas website:
- Limit driving and idling; carpool, combine errands, use public transportation, ride a bike or walk
- Keep your vehicle maintained, including keeping tires properly inflated.
- Maintain your yard equipment, including changing the oil and replacing air filters regularly.
- Mulch or compost leaves and yard waste instead of burning.
- Refuel your vehicle late afternoon or early evening.
- Use paint and cleaning products with fewer or no volatile organic compounds.
While at EarthX this past April, Dr. Kirk Johnson, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History explained carbon emissions in these terms, “Carbon dioxide is colorless and odorless, you never see the emissions. Cars emit their waste as gas – if they emitted it as charcoal, for every gallon of gas, the carbon emitted is equivalent to five pounds of charcoal briquettes.” The difference is the carbon is not left on the road, it is actually in the air we are breathing.
The good news is we can make a difference by making small changes in our everyday lives. From 2000 to 2017, ozone levels in Texas decreased by 30 percent. The rest of the nation averaged a 17 percent decrease in ozone levels. Texas has one of the most extensive, aggressive air monitoring programs in the nation.
Low levels of particulate matter typically does not affect healthy people. The most sensitive groups are the elderly, children, and those with diabetes, heart disease, or respiratory disease.
Particulate matter (PM) also affects the environment. Elevated levels can damage buildings, lakes and streams, and crops and plant life.
Your indoor air quality can also be a problem. Indoor levels of air pollutants to reach up to two to five times higher, and occasionally even 1,000 times higher, than outdoor levels. Common indoor air contaminants include radon, tobacco smoke, cleaning products, chemicals in upholstery foam, mold, combustion by-products, and volatile organic compounds.
You can take simple steps to reducing air pollution in your own home or office.
- Ensure that the entire house, office or car is properly ventilated. Proper ventilation ensures free flow of fresh air indoors, but poor ventilation allows pollutants to accumulate indoors.
- Use environmentally friendly cleaners. Countless household products such as cleaners, pesticides, dyes and laundry detergents are full of chemicals. Paying close attention to the labels of the products can offer an effective management strategy. Still, the best recommendation is switching to natural products that contain less harmful elements.
- Add some houseplants to your décor. Indoor plants naturally purify indoor air and can rid toxins from your home. Examples of plants that can help in purification to reduce indoor air pollution include the English ivy, spider plant, Boston fern and peace lily.
Learn more about the environment and the simple changes you can make for a more sustainable future at EarthX.org. EarthX’s mission is to connect a global community to create a sustainable world.