WINDSOR HEIGHTS –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are designating April 30 through May 4 as Air Quality Awareness Week.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Linn and Polk counties monitor current air quality in Iowa. Monitoring information is displayed at www.iowacleanair.com
. Most of the time Iowa’s air generally measures within good to acceptable quality.
April is the beginning of Iowa’s ozone season, which lasts through Oct. 31. Ozone concentrations can reach unhealthy levels when the weather is hot and sunny with relatively light winds. Ozone is formed by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen in the presence of heat and sunlight. Sources of those substances include:
- automobiles, trucks and buses;
- large industry and fuel combustion sources such as utilities;
- small industry such as gas stations and print shops;
- consumer products such as oil-based paints and cleaning materials; and
- emissions from aircraft, locomotives and construction equipment.
When the ozone level rises, citizens are asked to reduce using automobiles for non-essential errands, put off filling gas tanks and mowing lawns with gasoline engines until late evening when temperatures are cooler and to avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
The pollution problem of most concern in Iowa is when particle levels in the air increase close to the ground where people breathe. Dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets are examples of particle pollution. Stay upwind of recreational fires, legal landscape waste fires or prescribed burns, and be considerate of neighbors who may be more sensitive to the effects of air pollution.
Sometimes stagnant air masses do not allow fine particles emitted from vehicle traffic and industry to disperse and pollutant levels increase close to the ground. If that happens, sensitive populations are warmed to stay inside until the weather clears out the fine particles.
Sensitive air pollution groups are children, elderly, those with asthma and comprised lung and heart conditions, and outdoor athletes and workers that heavily exert their lungs.
Other EPA-regulated air pollutants are lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and hazardous air pollutants.