• Check the weather. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s AIRNow program to check daily ozone and fine particulate matter pollution levels, and don’t spend a lot of time outdoors if levels are moderate or high. “As we’re looking to figure how we clean up ozone, we have to not only look at peak days, but total amount of ozone we’re breathing on a day-to-day basis,” Nolen says. “It’s a very powerful irritant. It’s like a sunburn on your lungs, like rubbing sandpaper on an open wound.”
• Do your sweating inside. Don’t exercise outside in a high ozone day, or you’ll breathe in all sorts of nasty compounds. Instead, break a sweat inside your home or at the gym, or walk at the mall. Parents shouldn’t let their kids play outside for long periods of time on more polluted days.
• Look for local opportunities to clean up. The EPA just tightened the amount of ozone allowed, so many communities will be going through vigorous planning to get the air pollution levels down, Nolen explains. Also contact your state and local legislators and voice your concerns. Arm yourself with state and county facts from the American Lung Association's State of the Air report to show you’re doing your homework on the air pollution issue. And do what you can to avoid contributing to the problem: Use hand tools for gardening and for cleaning your yard, rather than gas-powered appliances. Don’t drive when you can walk. Commute with a car pool; when you have to travel by car, try to combine errands to make as few trips as possible.
• Be a clean air advocate. Attend an Air Pollution Control Agency meeting in your area and speak up on behalf of cleaning up emissions. “Often, industry and high-powered lawyers are there, but the public is missing,” Nolen explains. “You need to say, ‘People in my family are at risk, and we need to clean this up.’”
Published on: March 16, 2009
Updated on: May 17, 2010