What are Spare the Air days?
Air quality in the Bay Area can be unhealthy at times throughout the year.
Motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, industrial emissions and household chemicals contain volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides that combine with oxygen in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ground-level ozone. Breathing ozone can cause throat irritation, congestion and chest pain. It can trigger asthma, inflame the lining of the lungs and worsen bronchitis and emphysema.
Long-term exposure to ozone can reduce lung function. High levels of ozone pollution are particularly harmful for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. Vigorous outdoor exercise should be undertaken only in the early morning hours when ozone concentrations are lower. The Air District issues Spare the Air Alerts whenever air quality is forecast to reach unhealthy concentrations.
A list of simple things the public can do to make clean air choices every day:
- Bike to work or around town
- Take public transit
- Work at home or telecommute
- Carpool and link your errands to reduce driving
- Avoid using gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers
- Reduce household energy use
- Don't use lighter fluid on the barbecue
- Avoid using aerosol spray cleaners, paints and hairspray
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has higher fines this year for people who burn wood during Spare the Air alerts. First-time violators will receive a $100 fine or have the option of reading about and then being tested on the health hazards of wood smoke. Second-time offenders will now receive a $500 ticket, up from $400 last year.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (www.baaqmd.gov) is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the Bay Area. For more information about Spare the Air, visit www.sparetheair.org.