Did you know that cars and trucks typically produce more that 700,000 pounds of smog-forming pollutants each summer day in the Puget Sound region?* Created when vehicle emissions and other toxic emissions combine with sunlight, ground-level ozone (smog) is typically a brown, yellow, or whitish haze. The haze ruins our mountain views, damages trees, lichens, and mosses in Pacific Northwest forests, and has significant consequences for human health, causing respiratory damage in even the healthiest humans.*
Nationwide, motor vehicles are also the leading contributors to air toxics emissions, a nasty stew of pollutants that can cause cancer, reproductive and neurological problems. Currently, the EPA estimates that mobile sources of air toxics such as benzene are responsible for as much as half of all cancers attributed to outdoor sources.**
While business and industry also produce smog causing chemicals and air toxics, their contributions are a drop in the bucket as compared to mobile sources. Yet, because the former is much easier to regulate relative to individual driving behaviors, we often have the perception that it must be a larger contributor. Not true—our individual driving behaviors are single-handedly emitting the largest portion of both smog and cancer-causing chemicals.
So, what can be done? Take the following steps to reduce your contribution to Puget Sound air pollution:
- Use an alternate commute! Biking and walking have no negative impact on air quality, taking the Puget Sound region’s buses have limited impact on air quality, and riding in a carpool/vanpool significantly decreases your air pollution emissions. If only one day a week, give the alternate commute a try!
- Don’t idle. Idling for longer than 30 seconds burns more gasoline than turning off and restarting your car.
- If you must use a car, either conduct proper and regular maintenance (change oil and air filters, keep tires inflated) or purchase a cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicle.
- Refuel when it’s cool. Especially in the summertime, refuel during evening hours when warm air can’t get a hold of chemicals released during fueling and turn them into smog-causing ozone.
- Switch out your gasoline guzzling equipment—mowers, blowers, and wackers. Opt instead for air friendly electric!
We are each responsible for Puget Sound’s air quality, as well as the health of Puget Sound’s residents. Start today in taking the steps to improve air quality, reduce air pollution, and improve human health!
Interested in monitoring Puget Sound air quality and ozone levels? Check out the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s website: www.pscleanair.org/