The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has declared Wednesday as Spare the Air Day — the third consecutive day this week and the seventh this year.
Thursday and Friday might also be declared Spare the Air days depending on how high the temperatures are for the rest of the week, according to Kristine Roselius, spokesperson for the air district.
The particulate matter 2.5 concentration — consisting of particles with diameters that are less than or equal to 2.5 microns in size — for cities within the Coast and Central Bay, including the city of Berkeley, is estimated to be 55 points for Tuesday and 45 points for Wednesday, both of which fall into the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category on a scale based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Air Quality Index.
Tuesday’s PM 2.5 concentration is 0.5 points short of the “Unhealthy” category.
According to the Spare the Air website, PM 2.5 is a more serious health concern than PM 10, since smaller particles can travel more deeply into the lungs and cause more harmful effects.
The ozone concentrations for Tuesday and Wednesday in cities within the Eastern District, such as Lafayette and Alamo, are estimated to be 101 points — one point above the national health standards, according to the district — and are labeled as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.”
It’s not unusual to have consecutive Spare the Air days, Roselius said.
“When we have a streak of high temperatures during summer months, we issue Spare the Air days for people to cut back on activities such as driving to reduce pollution,” Roselius said. “It’s about people’s health.”
During the summer season – May to mid-October – the air district notifies Bay Area residents of high air pollution and unhealthy ozone levels through Spare the Air alerts that are sent out a day prior to Save the Air Day.
Such “smoggy” conditions are combinations of hot temperatures, lighter than usual winds, and ozone-forming emissions from motor vehicles.
The air district has asked residents to reduce or refrain from activities lending to excess air pollution, such as driving, using household aerosol products, gasoline-powered lawn mowers and oils based paints.
Active children and adults and people with respiratory diseases are advised to avoid “outdoor exertion” as excess levels of ozone in the air are said to reduce lung function, aggravate asthma and irritate the respiratory system, according to the Spare the Air website.
“There have been surveys and people have said that they change their habits on spare the air days, like carpooling and working from home,” Roselius said. “But there’s still a lot more that needs to be done.”
Image Sources: Spare the Air website and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality website