The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging New Jersey residents to make basic changes to their everyday routines to help improve air quality as part of Air Quality Awareness Week, which starts today and runs through May 1.
“The Christie Administration has made cleaner air a top priority and we have seen greatly improved air quality in our state as a result,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “During Air Quality Awareness Week, everyone has the opportunity to take simple actions to improve the air we breathe. It’s my hope that all New Jersey residents can follow these easy actions at all times to reduce air pollutants.”
Air Quality Awareness Week promotes education about air quality and encourages changes in everyday routines, especially when air quality is unhealthy. These include reducing automobile trips, not idling a vehicle, keeping vehicle’s maintenance up-to-date, using environmentally-friendly cleaning products, and checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) before heading outside.
New Jersey’s air quality has improved greatly in recent years as a result of laws regulating power plants and industrial emissions; better pollution controls on cars and trucks, especially those with diesel emission; and updating dry cleaning equipment. Governor Christie has targeted out-of-state polluters, in particular, whose downwind emissions cross over to New Jersey.
Most notably, the state won a major victory with the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of New Jersey’s Clean Air Act petition in 2012 that resulted in a mandated 60 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions that had long crossed the Delaware River and into North Jersey from coal-fired units at a Portland, Pa. power plant. The plant’s coal-fired units shut down last summer.
New Jersey has also achieved the national standards set by the EPA for fine particulate matter. Ozone, however, still remains an issue. Air Quality Awareness Week is timed to the beginning of the ozone season.
As warmer weather fast approaches New Jersey, residents are encouraged to take steps to protect their health from ozone.
Ground-level ozone, also called smog, is a strong respiratory irritant that can bring on asthma attacks and adversely affect the health of sensitive individuals, including those with respiratory and heart illness, older adults, young children and people who are active outdoors.
There are numerous opportunities for people, municipalities and elected officials to improve air quality in their neighborhoods. Some tips on reducing air pollutants include:
- Do not idle your car. It will save you fuel and money, as well as benefit your health.
- Develop good driving habits; Combine automobile trips to reduce “cold starts.” Choose a cleaner commute via carpooling, use of public transportation, biking or walking when possible.
- If your check-engine light is on, get your car emission codes read to determine what type of maintenance your car needs.
- When refueling vehicles, ask your gas attendant to stop when the nozzle clicks off to prevent overfilling. Tighten gas caps securely. Refuel vehicles in the late afternoon or after dark to reduce evaporation of gasoline, a volatile organic compound capable of forming smog.
- Maintain an energy efficient vehicle. Keep vehicle tires properly inflated to increase your gas mileage and reduce engine emissions.
- Turn off lights when you leave a room. Reduce usage of heating and air conditioning units while not home.
- Before doing household work that cause air pollution, like painting or mowing your lawn, check your local Air Quality Index (AQI) at www.njaqinow.net. If it is an orange or red-level day, postpone projects that use solvents or engines.
- Clean and paint using products with low volatile organic compound (VOC) content or none at all. Water-based products are best.
Earlier this year, New Jersey launched a Clean Air NJ website to educate the public about ground-level ozone and the role the public can play in reducing ozone forming emissions. The website can be found at www.cleanair.nj.gov.
For DEP Air Monitoring and alerts, visit: www.njaqinow.net.
For all of New Jersey’s air quality facts, and suggested actions for Air Quality Awareness Week, go tohttp://www.nj.gov/dep/aqaweek/