COMMENTARY: Dealing with a very bad air episode in Delaware

A quick summary of forecasts:

Wednesday: Code Orange for ozone,Code Yellow for particles.

Thursday: Official forecast: Code Orange, Green Delaware interpretation: Code Red (“unhealthy”).

Code Red for ozone, Code Yellow for particles. Thus, the official forecast calls it Code Red but Green Delaware calls it Code Purple (“very unhealthy”).

Friday and Saturday: The “Greater Philadelphia Region” forecast is different than the Delaware forecast and we are not sure which to believe. The Philly forecast likely applies at least to Northern New Castle County.

The “Delaware” official forecast is Code Orange for Friday and Code Yellow for Saturday. Green Delaware would call this Code Red for today and Code Yellow for Saturday.

The “Greater Philadelphia Region” official forecast for Friday is Code Red for Ozone and Code Yellow for Particles. Green Delaware calls this Code Purple.

The Greater Philadelphia official forecast for Saturday is Code Orange for ozone and Code Yellow for particles. Green Delaware calls this Code Red.

The most important limitation of this system is that it fails to consider that cumulative effects of multiple pollutants, such as ozone and particulates.

Particle pollution levels are being increased by extensive forest fires in Alberta.

However one interprets the details, it’s obvious that the air is very bad, pollution is at levels that can make people sick or kill them.

Below is advice from the state of Delaware. Note that this does not include any curtailment of industrial or refinery or power plant emissions:

Help Clean The Air Tips:

1. Ride DART First State. Don’t know what bus route to ride, or what time to be at the bus stop? Visit DART’s website at http://www.dartfirststate.com or call them at 1-800-652-DART in New Castle and Kent counties, and 1-800-553-DART in Sussex County.

2. Carpool with friends and/or coworkers. To find a carpool partner or if you already ride the bus/train, and want to register for our Home Free Guarantee, call RideShare Delaware at 1-888-RIDE-MATCH or visit http://www.ridesharedelaware.org

3. Limit daytime driving and combine errands

4. When you must drive, try to avoid congested periods

5. Ride public transportation or carpool to work

6. Maintain your vehicle’s emission control equipment

7. Walk or ride a bicycle for short, easy trips

8. Postpone the use of gasoline-powered mowers until evening

9. Refuel your car in the evening – and don’t top off your tank

10. Avoid lighting your barbecue with starter fluid

11. Avoid prolonged idling and jackrabbit starts

12. Use latex rather than oil-based paints

Ground-level ozone is a real threat to our health because it reacts with sensitive lung tissue, causing harmful changes in breathing passages.

Children, the elderly and individuals with respiratory diseases are especially harmed by ozone. Even healthy individuals can be harmed if they attempt strenuous activity on days with high ozone … those days should be used for inside low physical stress activity.

Remember, this may seem like a small contribution by you as an individual, but if we can get solid public involvement, working together we CAN make a real difference!

Any health-related questions should be directed to the Division of Public Health at 302-739-6619. All other questions should be directed to the Air Quality Management at 302-739-9402.

Also, if you’re interested in seeing hourly monitoring data of ozone and other air pollutants visit our website at: http://www.dnrec.state.de.us/air/aqm_page/air_mont.htm.

Alan Muller is executive director Green Delaware, a community-based organization working on environment and public health issues.

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