Our local governments and schools should adopt a policy to follow on Air Quality Advisory Days and do their share
by David Miller,
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), through the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency has extended the Air Quality Advisory into Thursday and it is likely to continue into the weekend. Our region is experiencing sunshine and hot stagnant air which cooks chemicals released near the ground into ozone, better known as smog. The health message from the Ohio EPA is that active children and adults, and people with lung disease, such as asthma, should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.
*”Children face special risks from air pollution because their lungs are growing and because they are so active.”
“Just like the arms and legs, the largest portion of a child’s lungs will grow long after he or she is born. Eighty percent of their tiny air sacs develop after birth. Those sacs, called the alveoli, are where the life-sustaining transfer of oxygen to the blood takes place. The lungs and their alveoli aren’t fully grown until children become adults.1 In addition, the body’s defenses that help adults fight off infections are still developing in young bodies.2 Children have more respiratory infections than adults, which also seems to increase their susceptibility to air pollution.”
Read more: Focusing on Children a resource guide from the American Lung Association.
The OEPA when issuing the advisory lists actions all of can undertake to reduce the brew of toxics, however local cities, schools, and townships are not heeding the advice and doing their share on behalf of all of us and our children.
On Air Alert days, children should not be playing outdoors because they are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution because they breath more of into their still developing bodies. Children’s lungs are permanently damaged by air pollution.**
Our region and especially the City of Loveland like to boast about our natural surroundings and the quality of life in our quaint river communitiy.
Now is the time for our schools and governments to adopt common sense practices and do their part to reduce the air pollution they produce on days when the OEPA issues an Air Quality Advisory.
The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency can assist with customizing a plan.
Let’s be leaders and innovators in protecting our environment and children at the local level!
What would an action plan for Air Quality Advisory days look like?
When the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency issues an Air Quality Alert, key employees or administrators will immediately issue an internal communication, an “Air Alert Advisory” to all employees. Here is where you can sign up for the advisories: EnviroFlash.
- For schools, cancel athletic activities or move them indoors; including team practice, scheduled games, and recess. Because of their developing lungs and rate of breathing, active children are most at risk when air pollution rises to dangerous levels. Children’s lungs are permanently damaged by air pollution.
- Schools and daycare centers have a special responsibility to protect children.* They must suspend strenuous outdoor activities, including notifying athletic leagues and conferences that they will not participate in scrimmages or games on Air Quality Alert days. High air pollution combined with high heat can be deadly for school-age athletes.
- Suspend mowing. Mowers and other lawn equipment lack pollution controls and are highly polluting.*** ****
- No use of gasoline or diesel powered maintenance equipment.
- Prohibit use of oil-based paints, stains, adhesives, and cleaning products.
- Prohibit the idling of vehicles.
- Employees must combine and eliminate unnecessary vehicle trips.
- Issue an “Alert” to any contractors doing work such as contracted mowing or maintenance that they cannot do this type of work when the OEPA issues an Air Quality Advisory. Make it policy that any negotiated contracts contain Air Quality Alert provisions.
- Suspend asphalt paving projects when air pollution alerts are issued.
- Closely monitor roadways for pollution causing traffic tie-ups and dispatch traffic control officers to the scene.
- Write policy and take the necessary steps to protect employees when air and heat advisories are issued, such as those found here: OSHA: Protect workers from soaring temperatures
- Discourage riding motorcycles to work during Air Quality Alerts. *****
- Provide secure bike racks in employee and customer parking lots. Be creative with employee incentives for those who walk or bike to work during Air Quality Advisory days, such as allowing employees who walk or ride a bike to work to sign in 1/2-hour late and leave early.
Offices and Classrooms
- Turn off unnecessary lights in hallways.
- Take advantage of natural light in offices and conference rooms.
- Employees must turn off lights when leaving individual offices, conference rooms, break rooms and restrooms.
- Install LED lighting.
- Turn off unnecessary outdoor lighting.
- Employees must shut down computers, printers, and peripherals at the end of the work day.
- Unplug unused “standby” electronics at the end of the work day, such as conference room televisions, DVD players, Smartboards, as well as break room/kitchen microwaves.
- Encourage employees to carpool or take public transportation to work.
- Allow employees to telecommute.
- Consider installing motion sensor office lights.
- Shut off air conditioning in un-occupied individual offices, conference rooms, break rooms, restrooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias, and hallways. Turn up the thermostats of the entire building.
- Maintenance that is typically done during the summer, either in-house or by contractors, like laying new carpet or tile, painting walls, and waxing floors using volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) should be curtailed.
- Refuel vehicles before 8 AM or after 8 PM when day time temperatures and air pollutant levels tend to be lower.
- Employees will strategically plan routes to reduce driving time and lower fuel use.
- Keep vehicles maintained with properly inflated tires and timely oil changes.
- Fire departments and park districts must postpone live fire training and controlled burns during an Air Quality Advisory. Any special burn permits they sign-off on must contain a Air Alert provision.
- Similarly, construction projects should not be permitted outdoor fire pits for workers’ warmth or a convenient disposal method. They must be offered an alternative such as breaks from the cold, inside trailers. Yes, air alerts are issued in the winter when conditions are right.
What Else Should Be Done?
- Encourage employees to carpool or take public transportation to work.
- Educate employees about the Air Quality Index. Include articles in your employee newsletter, and post flyers at time clocks and break areas. diesel trucks and buses can be particularly harmful to air quality.
- Install “Idle Free Zone” signs in public and employee parking areas to remind customers and staff to turn off their vehicles when parked. These signs are available at no cost from the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency.
- Strive to make energy conservation a daily practice; it will also help reduce expenditures.