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Be air aware

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What you should know about air quality alerts for ozone

Compared to other states around the country, Minnesota ranks high in overall air quality. Even so, every year there are a few days when air quality becomes unhealthy due to increased levels of fine particles or ozone. During these days, the MPCA issues air quality alerts to inform you about what you can do to protect your health and tips for how you can reduce your contribution to air pollution.

During hot, summer days, ozone can rise to levels considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Elevated levels of ozone have been linked with respiratory problems, causing shortness of breath and breathing discomfort, and resulting in coughing and a sore or scratchy throat. If you experience these symptoms, contact your physician.

Who should be concerned?

Breathing polluted air is unhealthy for everyone. But certain sensitive groups are especially at risk.

  • Children
  • People with heart or lung issues
  • Older adults
  • Active people of all ages who exercise or work vigorously outside.

Even persons who are otherwise healthy may experience health effects when ozone levels increase.

Reduce your risk

If you are in the sensitive group, here are some things you can do to reduce your risk.

  • If possible, postpone prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors—such as running or jogging outside and yard work.
  • During ozone alerts, schedule outdoor activity in the morning, when ozone levels are lower.

What you can do to help keep our air clean?

Ozone is produced on hot, sunny days by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen, which are released from motor vehicles, lawn and garden equipment, paints and solvents, refueling stations, and other activities that require fuel combustion.

  • Turn off your engine if you are going to be stopped for more than 10 seconds, except at a traffic signal or in slow traffic.
  • Drive easy. You can improve fuel efficiency by 10% or more by driving the speed limit, accelerating slowly, and maintaining your vehicle.
  • Fuel up in the evening when it's cooler and don't top off the fuel tank beyond where the automatic nozzle clicks off. It forces vapors out of the tank and potentially leads to spills.
  • Take the bus or check out rideshare or telework options at your work place.
  • Reduce small engine use. Mow your grass less often, try an electric mower or push mower, or reduce total lawn area by installing native plants, rain gardens, or vegetable gardens.
  • Use less electricity. We burn coal or natural gas to make most of our electricity, so saving energy is important for air quality, too.
  • Reconsider the campfire. Wood smoke contains toxins and harmful microscopic particles. Stop burning wood during air pollution health alerts and never burn garbage.

Find out more about air quality in Minnesota.

Last modified on July 21, 2014 09:02

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