A variety of air pollutants can impact public health, but the main pollutants of concern in Idaho are fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone, which primarily come from fires (wildfire, prescribed fire, crop residue burning, and open burning), industrial sources, and vehicles. Breathing in these pollutants can have serious respiratory and cardiovascular effects, but you can take several steps to protect your health.
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EPA established health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide.
Hazardous Air Pollutants
There are 188 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other health concerns. These pollutants include industrial chemicals, solvents, metals, pesticides, and combustion by-products.
Greenhouses gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and are essential to support life on this planet at a certain concentration. However, when concentrations become too high, greenhouse gases contribute to climate change.
Haze is caused when sunlight interacts with tiny pollution particles in the air, which reduce clarity, color, and visibility. It is one of the most common forms of air pollution and impacts visibility in many American cities and scenic areas.
Breathing in air pollutants can adversely affect human health, especially in sensitive populations such as children, the elderly, and people with certain health conditions such as asthma. Potential health problems include lung damage, birth defects, nerve damage, reduced immunity, and an increased risk of developing cancer.
People with heart or lung disease, children, and older adults are most likely to be affected by PM2.5 exposure, while individuals with asthma, children, older adults, and those who recreate or work outside are most at risk from ozone exposure.
Everyone can help protect Idaho’s air!
Maintain your car
A poorly maintained car uses more gas per mile, polluting the air and costing you money. Check the air and fuel filters, tire pressure, and spark plugs.
Try alternative forms of transportation, such as riding the bus, carpooling, or biking. Try to combine trips and limit idling time when you do need to drive.
Don’t top off your tank
Topping off your tank can cause pressure to build in your tank, forcing the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in gasoline to vaporize into the air. VOCs are one of the main pollutants in the formation of ozone.
Refuel after 7 p.m.
Ozone forms when it is hot and sunny. Refueling your vehicle when the sun is lower and the temperature has dropped will allow vapors to dissipate faster, reducing the evaporation of vapors into your tank and the air.
Maintain your gas-powered lawn and garden equipment
Like your car, maintaining gas-powered lawn and garden tools will extend the life of your equipment and reduce air pollution. Using electric alternatives can also help improve air quality.
Mow your lawn in the evening
Mow your lawn in the evening to reduce air emissions that react to form ozone.
Only burn dry wood and operate your stove properly. Consider using a cleaner heating alternative during periods of degraded air quality.
Instead of burning your yard waste, use an alternative such as mulching or composting.
Use best burning practices
If you must burn, use best management practices to minimize smoke impacts.
Comply with rules
Always comply with open burning rules, ordinances, and burn bans.
Never burn garbage
It is illegal and unhealthy to burn garbage. Plastics, metals, and treated wood can release harmful chemicals into the air and have serious health effects.
Avoid consumer products containing toxic compounds
Read and follow all safety instructions. Products containing toxic compounds sometimes state, “use in a well ventilated area.” Look for less toxic alternative products.