San Diego County offers tips to help clear the air of pollution

It’s our air. We all share it and we all need to protect it. Courtesy photo
It’s our air. We all share it and we all need to protect it. Courtesy photo

Gig Conaughton

County of San Diego Communications Office

We can’t live without it. It literally surrounds us. But we can’t see it and most of us never think about it.

It’s our air. We all share it and we all need to protect it, because pollution – from chemical vapors to tiny particles of matter – can make people sick and hurt the environment.

Fortunately, much of the world has made great strides in the last few decades in controlling and fighting air pollution. San Diego County’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) says we’re enjoying the best air quality we’ve ever had here in more than four decades.

APCD constantly monitors our air, conducts thousands of air collection and sampling inspections every year; and permits and regulates businesses like gas stations, manufacturing plants and power plants.

But there’s always more to do. So APCD has some tips for how everyone can protect our air and fight pollution – even at home.

Try not to use aerosol sprays – Products that use aerosol sprays – like deodorants, cleaning products, insecticides and spray paint – contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are chemicals and pollutants that easily evaporate into the air and are major contributors to ground-level smog and an indirect contributor to greenhouse gases.

Don’t top off your gas tank – Topping off your tank, past the point the gas pump automatically shuts off, can spill gasoline and its vapors into the air. Those vapors not only contain carcinogens like benzene, they also contain VOCs that create smog.

Turn off appliances and lights when not using them – Chances are, your electricity is generated by a fossil-fuel power plant. That means using electricity burns fossil fuels that create air pollution.

Use an electric mower or push mower – APCD director Bob Kard said gas-powered machines emit an average of roughly 10 pounds of air pollution per year. New electric mowers, as well as push mowers, emit zero pollution.

Keep AC at 78 degrees and heater at 68 degrees – Again, using less energy means creating less pollution. (You can save lots of money too!)

Use a gas barbecue grill – A charcoal barbecue generates almost twice as much carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas caused by people – as a gas one. But even if you can’t afford to buy a new gas barbecue, you can still cut pollution. When you light your charcoal, use an electric lighter, a paper-fed chimney charcoal-starter, or only small amounts of barbecue lighter fluid so you create less pollution.

Seal it tightly – Make sure cleaners, paints, solvents and chemicals around your house are sealed tightly. These also contain VOCs that can evaporate and pollute the air if lids aren’t on tight. You can find acetone in nail polish, furniture polish and wallpaper; benzene in paint, glue, carpeting, lawnmowers and gas cans; ethanol in glass cleaners, dishwasher and laundry detergents; formaldehyde in lacquers; toluene in paint and terpene in laundry detergents.

Cut driving trips – Automobiles generate more smog, greenhouse gases, and air pollution in the U.S. than anything else, pushing tiny particles of soot and metals, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hazardous chemicals into the air. But there are things you can do to cut your car’s pollution. When you have different places to go, try to link your trips instead of making several, independent trips. This will cut down the miles and time you are in the car. Use mass transit.

For more information about air quality and the Air Pollution Control District, go to www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/apcd/en.html.

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