Why do we spare the air?

During this time of year, we all hear about Spare the Air Days. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District puts out the call, and everyone is encouraged to leave their cars at home and take less polluting modes of transportation.
How does BAAQMD decide we’re going to have a Spare the Air Day?
Two things make summer Spare the Air Days special:

  • Hot temperatures, and
  • Low wind.

When the weather is warmer, our pollutants “bake” into ground-level ozone. Without wind to push it around, the smog accumulates all around us. When the temperature and wind forecasts exceed the federal health standard, organizations like BAAQMD, 511CC, and others put out the warning.
The summer Spare the Air season runs from about May through October.
These days of ground-level ozone are particularly dangerous to the very young, very old, and anyone with a respiratory condition, but really, no one should be breathing that junk.
That’s why on Spare the Air Days, we encourage residents to cut back on activities that generate ozone. That includes:

  • driving
  • using oil-based paints or household aerosol products, like hair spray
  • operating a gas-powered lawn mowers, or two-stroke motorized recreational vehicles
Looking for more information on Summer Spare the Air Days?
  • Learn more about the health effects of ozone.
  • View historical “box scores” listing the number of times ozone standards have been exceeded on an annual basis in the Bay Area.
  • Watch Bay Area Ozone Animations showing smog activity on selected days.
  • Read the Spare the Air FAQs.

Unfortunately, summer isn’t the only season where weather can exacerbate the danger of air pollution. In winter, particulate matter is the threat. What are large household contributors of small particulate matters (smaller than 2.5 microns)? Wood burning.
From November through February, the Air District’s wood-burning regulation prohibits burning wood, firelogs, pellets, or any other solid fuels in your fireplace, woodstove, or other wood-burning device on a Spare the Air Day.
When wood burning is allowed, residents who do burn in a fireplace or outdoor fire pit must still burn cleanly using dry, seasoned firewood, and not burn garbage, leaves or other material that would cause excessive smoke. Residents who exceed the excess visible smoke provision in the wood-burning rule could still be subject to an Air District citation or penalty.
Follow these links for more information on the Air District’s wood-burning regulation, and instructions on how to comply.
You can also file a wood smoke complaint online.
Read more about how to get Spare the Air Day alerts from 511CC.
Photo from drtran‘s Flicker.

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No Responses to “Why do we spare the air?”

  1. Spare the air has nothing to do with air quality, and everything to do with coordination with power usage with PG&E. When it's cold out, PG&E notifies the Air Quality Board and advises them that power usage is down because of alternate heat sources. the board issues a spare the air day, and everyone is required to use PG&E energy and can't use renewable fuel sources. It's all about the money

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