ORCAA joins with the other local Air Agencies in Washington, as well as the Department of Ecology (ECY) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in celebration of the National Air Quality Awareness Week. The key focus of this week is to remind Americans to stay “Air Aware”and to have them reduce their exposure – and their contribution – to air pollution.
By following recommendations of the Air Quality Index (AQI), people can take simple steps to reduce the amount of pollution they breathe in. The AQI is EPA’s color-coded tool for reporting daily air quality and forecasts for common air pollutants, including ozone (smog) and particle pollution.
Although air quality in Washington generally earns high marks, and the six counties served by ORCAA enjoy clear, clean air much of the year, yet serious threats do continue to pose problems for clean air. Exhaust from diesel vehicles and smoke from wood stoves, fireplaces and outdoor burning pose the greatest risks to human health in our state. Air pollution causes cancer and harms the heart, lungs and immune systems, especially in individuals with pre-existing health conditions, infants, young children, the elderly, pregnant women and smokers. Additionally, the cost of these health impacts – estimated to be in the billions of dollars – is primarily borne by individual citizens, employers and governments.
The problems of air pollution go much deeper than that, even. Air pollution also affects the environment and quality of life in other ways, including: damage to soils, water, crops, and wildlife; impaired visibility; and effects on the climate.
- Monday: Ways to Live Clean and Green
The average home in Washington produced approximately the same amount of pollution as an average family car (i.e., over 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nearly 10 pounds of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), based upon the average monthly residential electricity consumption.
- Tuesday: Ways to Drive Clean and Green
On road sources (e.g., cars, trucks) continue to be the largest contributors to air toxics, ozone, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and carbon monoxide emissions. They are also the largest contributing sources to greenhouse gas emissions in the state, even considering advances in vehicle technology to reduce air pollution. Larger vehicles, like popular sport utility vehicles (SUVs), can produce more than twice as much pollution as a small car!
- Wednesday: Ways to Keep your School Clean and Green
Students, educators and school administrators can all play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Thursday: Ways to Buy Clean and Green
Americans use so many Styrofoam cups each year that, if stacked end to end, they would to circle the earth 426 times. That’s one hundred cups per person per year. These cups are made from petroleum products, a non-renewable resource. The processes and resources that create, distribute, and dispose of these cups contributes to air pollution – and contribute to our continued reliance on foreign oil.
- Friday: Ways to Keep your Community Clean and Green
Be proactive to encourage smart growth. As a resident of one of the communities within ORCAA’s six county jurisdiction, you already enjoy some of one of the world’s most spectacular places to live. Help keep it clean, green and natural by sitting in on the meetings of your local planning commission or county council meetings. Encourage your government leaders to choose green design options and to make smart planning decisions.