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Six tips for helping Iowa’s air quality and enjoying the outdoors

  • 5/7/2024 12:03:00 PM
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Spending time outdoors is important for both mental health and physical fitness. With May 6-10 as National Air Quality Awareness Week, here are six tips for enjoying the outdoors with air quality in mind: 

  1. Spark sustainable fires. Most people enjoy a cozy campfire or fire pit on a starry night. Create a more efficient fire with less smoke by only burning dry wood, not wet wood. Avoid burning plastics and trash that could release toxic chemicals into the air.
  2. Reduce emissions from your car, boat, and camper. One of the biggest contributors to air pollution is emissions that come from vehicles. Keep engines properly tuned, avoid excessive idling, and try to fuel in cooler morning or evening hours to reduce gas vapor from being released.
  3. Switch to electric or hand-powered lawn equipment. Gas-powered engines on lawnmowers and outdoor yard equipment often lack pollution-control devices. An hour running a lawn mower can produce nearly the same amount of pollution as a 100-mile car trip. Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment instead.
  4. Choose safe alternatives for household cleaners and paints. Many household materials contain toxic chemicals that can be released into the air. Choose “green” products when possible, and be sure to properly dispose of Household Hazardous Materials (HHMs) such as leftover herbicides and paints at Regional Collection Centers in Iowa.
  5. Adopt air-purifying indoor plants. Healthy air quality is also important inside the home. Many houseplants have the same ability as trees to metabolize air pollutants by removing carbon dioxide and replenishing oxygen levels. Tropical plants with large leaves are especially effective. Some examples are spider plants, peace lilies, elephant ears, rubber plants and many more.
  6. Check air quality before going outside. Reduce exposure to pollutants before spending extended time outdoors or exercising. People with pre-existing lung conditions, young children and the elderly can be especially susceptible to air pollution incidents like Iowa experienced in 2023 from Canadian wildfires. Pay attention to news alerts or check out the DNR’s Air Quality Index Forecast to assess air quality conditions in your area.  

Enjoy your time outdoors and do your part to keep Iowa’s air safe and healthy. Just as importantly, protect your own health by being aware and making cleaner choices around your home and yard or when you are outdoors recreating. For more information, visit: