The fact that the quality of our air is something that we rarely have to think about is one indication of the success of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's Spare the Air program, which is currently marking its 25th anniversary.
The Spare the Air program, which provides notification to area residents on days when the air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, began in 1991 to reduce air pollution in the Bay Area and promote clean air activities like taking transit or carpooling instead of driving alone. Over the last 25 years, the program has informed residents about the impact of air pollution and how it can be reduced.
"The power to change air quality in the region lies with each Bay Area resident and business," said Lisa Fasano, communications officer for the Air District. "Transportation is our largest source of air pollution so by changing the way we commute and providing alternatives for employees, we can improve Bay Area air quality."
Spare the Air Alerts are called on days when ozone pollution or smog is forecast to reach unhealthy levels. On these days, the Air District urges residents to cut back on activities that cause pollution, especially driving.
The program has two seasonal components that educate residents about the effects of air pollution, enabling them be proactive towards improving air quality in the Bay Area. In the summer months, Spare the Air focuses primarily on the formation of ozone, an unhealthy byproduct of heat and hydrocarbon combustion. On days where this smog is forecast to be high, the program issues alerts encouraging residents to drive less and reduce other activities which contribute to the creation of ozone.
In winter, Spare the Air's pollution barometer switches to particulate matter, otherwise know as soot. When the level of these particles in the air is forecast to be unhealthy, the program issues an alert prohibiting the burning of wood, fire logs, or pellets in fireplaces, woodstoves, or outdoor fire pits.
Many Hacienda businesses, as well as others in the Bay Area, play a key role in the program through their participation in the Spare the Air Employer Program. Over 2,100 companies in the region have joined this program, making a commitment to notify their employees about Spare the Air alerts and to implement clean air policies and practices.
By signing up for AirAlerts, individuals can receive notifications as well. To enroll, simply sign up at www.sparetheair.org and you can receive emails whenever a Spare the Air day is announced.
Future additions to the program will be rolled out as they are needed. "As the Bay Area faces new air quality challenges, the Spare the Air program will provide the tools to help meet those challenges head-on," said Fasano.
For additional information on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, access www.baaqmd.org.
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