Air Quality Awareness Week

MONDAY:  Air Quality Awareness Week 2017

May 1 – May 5 is National Air Quality Awareness Week, and this year’s theme for the Cowboy State is Educate, Enact, and Empower! Every day this week, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will send out an email with a daily topic, facts about the topic, information about Wyoming’s air quality related to the topic, and actions or practices that have positive results.

Also, as a brand new component of Air Quality Awareness Week, we’re asking YOU to spread the word! If you’re on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, post a picture with the hashtag #leadingtheway that explains why Wyoming’s environment is meaningful to you, or how you are helping to ensure clean air for our great State! We’re all in this together, so help us spread the word! 

TUESDAY:  Air Quality Awareness Week: Wildfires

Educate: Wildfires are a part of life in the west, and a single wildfire can burn thousands of acres before they are contained. Some wildfires are necessary for ecosystem health, but wildfires always produce smoke. Particulate matter, a term for small particles suspended in the air, are the primary pollutant in smoke from wildfires.

Enact: Particulate matter may lead to respiratory issues, even in healthy individuals, and may aggravate pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality works with other agencies to monitor wildfire activity and evaluate potential impacts from smoke.

Empower: While the average Wyoming resident cannot fight a wildfire themselves (unless of course they are on a fire response team) there are strategies for reducing smoke exposure. AirNow recommends, among other things, staying indoors and running an air conditioner with a clean filter if possible. To see current air quality conditions in Wyoming for particulate matter and other pollutants visit http://www.wyvisnet.com/.

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WEDNESDAY:  Air Quality Awareness Week: Asthma and Air Quality

Educate: Air pollution may contribute to a variety of lung diseases and other respiratory problems. Exposure to ground-level ozone and other pollutants in the air may also cause flare-ups and may increase the chance of upper respiratory infections, which can worsen asthma symptoms. Ozone on the ground is much different than the ozone in our upper atmosphere; it’s produced when sunlight reacts with nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). NOx and VOCs come from natural sources and anthropogenic sources.

Enact: The Department of Environmental Quality has taken action by forecasting during the months of elevated ozone occurrence (January-March) in Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin, and advising the public on when forecasted weather conditions are favorable for the formation of ozone. Information on ozone and the health effects of ozone are available at the Wyoming Department of Health website: http://www.health.wyo.gov.

Empower: We can’t solve the ozone problem by ourselves, but we can all pitch in to help by carpooling, using public transportation, riding a bike, walking, using gasoline powered equipment later in the evening when air quality improves and by not using paints or solvents that produce fumes. You can monitor ozone levels in or near your town with Air Quality Division’s monitoring stations, which can be found at www.wyvisnet.com

THURSDAY:  Air Quality Awareness Week: Air Quality Trends (Part 1)

Educate: The Clean Air Act Air sets national standards for six common “criteria” pollutants: particulate matter, ozone (sometimes referred to as smog), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pollution levels have dropped significantly since 1990 despite increases in population and energy use.

Enact: The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has been working with industry and the public to reduce pollution levels in Wyoming. Through a combination of control strategies and technologies, pollutants in Wyoming – most notably ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter – have all been reduced significantly.

Empower: Unlike most areas of the nation, ozone levels tend to increase in the winter rather than the summer in Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin (UGRB). During the winter ozone season, from January to March, the Wyoming Air Quality Division monitors ozone and conducts forecasting in the UGRB. The Air Quality Division also issues an Ozone Action Day if forecasted weather conditions appear favorable for elevated ozone levels. On these days, some oil and gas operators and other entities volunteer to implement short-term emission reduction plans, and sensitive groups are advised to limit outdoor activity. To receive notifications, sign up at http://deq.wyoming.gov/aqd/public-notices/air-quality-winter-ozone/.

Additional resources:

Information about the Criteria Air Pollutants: https://www.epa.gov/criteria-air-pollutants

FRIDAY:  Air Quality Awareness Week: Air Quality Trends (Part 2)

Educate: In 2016, air quality monitors in Cheyenne and Casper recorded annual PM2.5 concentrations of 12.8 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) and 11.0 µg/m3, respectively. The annual National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM2.5 is 35.0 µg/m3. That places Cheyenne and Casper – the only two Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the State of Wyoming – at roughly one-third of the allowable federal standard for PM2.5!

Enact: Wyoming is fortunate to have some of the cleanest air in the nation, and the Wyoming Air Quality Division works with industry, other agencies, and the public to make sure it stays that way.

Empower: Small actions can make a big difference, whether it means sharing a ride with someone, mowing the lawn in the early evening, or having properly inflated tires. Taking these kinds of steps can go a long way in maintaining or improving air quality no matter where you are. More tips on reducing pollution can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s site:  https://www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/reducepollution.html.

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