Fairfax County Residents Can Play Their Part to Reduce Air Pollution


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

May 26, 2004

 

Fairfax County Residents Can Play Their Part to Reduce Air Pollution

 

Smog season is officially here, and Fairfax County residents can help reduce our region's air pollution. In fact, residents must do their share, because Fairfax County and the entire Washington-metropolitan area are under federal orders to clean up the air.

By taking several simple actions, county residents can reduce air pollution by:

  • Carpooling to work or using public transportation
  • Limiting the number of car trips taken
  • Avoiding the use of gasoline-powered lawn equipment, like lawnmowers
  • Refueling cars after dark
  • Keeping cars well tuned and the tires properly inflated
  • Avoiding the use of oil-based paints
  • Conserving electricity, so power plants produce lower emissions
  • Avoid unnecessary engine idling

"Air pollution may seem like a national problem that no one individual can solve - but one person can make a significant difference by taking a few simple actions, like refueling their car after dark," says Kambiz Agazi, environmental coordinator for Fairfax County. "Cars and trucks are among the biggest producers of air pollution; therefore driving less is a real contribution towards cleaner air."

The Baltimore-Washington region ranks as one of the top 20 worst metropolitan areas for air pollution according to the American Lung Association's recent report, "State of the Air: 2004."

Air pollution can cause serious health problems, ranging from difficulty breathing to premature death. Two pollutants are the main ingredients for unhealthy air: ozone and particulates. Both are invisible but harmful. High up in the earth's atmosphere, ozone, a gas, shields people from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, but down low on the ground, ozone damages human health. Particulates are microscopically tiny, sooty particles that lodge themselves in the lungs.

Cars, diesel trucks, coal-fired power plants, factories and gas-burning lawn equipment all generate volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide into the air. When these chemicals react with sunlight, they result in ozone and particulate pollution. Gas-consuming vehicles and equipment are responsible for 60 to 70 percent of ozone-forming pollutants.

Starting this year, the region will measure ozone exposure based upon an eight-hour average, instead of the one-hour burst used in previous years. The EPA mandated the new eight-hour standard because scientific studies indicate that even short-term ozone exposure can threaten human health. Additionally, the county, along with 100 other jurisdictions, will base its daily air quality forecasts upon particulate pollution, as well as ozone levels.

Typical symptoms for ozone exposure include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, fatigue, headaches, nausea, chest pain, and eye and throat irritation. For those exercising outdoors, ozone pollution commonly causes pain when taking deep breaths.

Particulate pollution affects the lungs - and the heart. Since 1996, more than 2,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated that particulates aggravate chronic respiratory diseases (like asthma or bronchitis), increase the number of heart attacks among the elderly and increase the risk for lung cancer.

When the air quality forecast is "Code Purple" or "Code Red," everyone - even healthy individuals - can experience ill health effects, like difficulty breathing.

To inform the public about air quality, the EPA created a color-coded index that ranges from "good" to "hazardous" conditions. Daily air quality forecasts can be found online at www.mwcog.org/environment/air/forecast or by calling the Air Quality Hotline at 202-962-3299, TTY 711. When a Code Red day, or higher, is forecast, the Office of Public Affairs will place announcements on the county Web site, www.fairfaxcounty.gov, and on cable Channel 16. Free bus rides will be offered on all Northern Virginia bus systems.

For more information about air quality, how residents can help reduce pollution or what the county is doing to improve our air, call the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/opa/airquality/management.htm.

FAIRFAX COUNTY IS COMMITTED TO A POLICY OF NONDISCRIMINATION IN ALL COUNTY PROGRAMS, SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES AND WILL PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UPON REQUEST. TO REQUEST SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS, CALL 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935. PLEASE ALLOW FIVE WORKING DAYS IN ADVANCE OF EVENTS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS

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