Category Archives: Air Quality

Breathe Better (B2) for Businesses

As the population and the number of businesses grow, so does the volume of vehicles on the road in a single day. This can be challenging for keeping the air in South Carolina clean and safe.

The good news is South Carolina does have clean air and is currently attaining all of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.  These standards were established to protect public health. Maintaining favorable air quality by keeping emissions at a minimum will help keep South Carolina within the air quality standards and protect public health.

Your business can be a leader in your community by implementing air pollution reduction strategies to maintain good air quality in South Carolina:

  • Register to be a Breathe Better (B2) business. You will receive anti-idling signs that can go in your loading areas and parking lots.
  • Sign up for the EPA Air Quality Flag Program and display the corresponding air quality desktop sign in your place of business.
  • Create and support a telecommuting policy for your employees so they can work from home one or more days a week to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Create and support an alternative work schedule. A flexible work schedule allows your employees to stagger their work schedule to avoid driving in peak rush hour traffic.
  • Encourage carpooling and vanpooling. Sharing your daily commute can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and save on gas.
  • Install a bike rack at your business and encourage employees to ride a bike or walk to work whenever possible. It’s good for the environment and your health.
  • Consider replacing and/or purchasing fleet vehicles with hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles.
  • Look for opportunities to reduce diesel emissions through reduction strategies and technologies. South Carolina Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) Grants are available for eligible applicants to help fund these types of projects.

When Yellow means “Go”

By: Renee Madden, Bureau of Air Quality

Last summer, I received a call from my daughter who was concerned because she had heard that the Air Quality Index (also known as the AQI) expected a Yellow flag day. Since I work with air quality data, she wanted to know if it was safe to take my 3-year-old granddaughter outside to play or was it dangerous?

I understand her concern. We live in a State that enjoys clean air. In fact, as the graph below shows, the average ozone design value has fallen over the last 18 years and has been below the National Ambient Air Quality Standard since 2010.

BAQ-table-1

So, what’s the deal with all of the colors? As you all know, the AQI is a color-coded air quality guide that lets people know how healthy the air is expected to be – kind of like an air quality shortcut. Each color is associated with a certain level of ozone in the air that lets people know the level of pollution. The Green flag and the Yellow flag are the first two colors that occur in the AQI when the ozone is below the Standard and the air is healthy for normal activities. The Green flag means it’s a Great day and the Yellow flag means it’s a Good day. I know-the color Yellow usually means caution. But, the Yellow flag in air quality means that the air is acceptable except for a small number of people that are unusually sensitive to air pollutants and may need to take some precautions. For those people, it is important to know if there are any pollutants in the air. But, for most of the general population, the Yellow flag means it is safe to go outside and play. So, don’t be scared away by seeing the Yellow flag. This is one time that “Yellow” means, “Go, play and have fun!”

Another statement that I often hear is there seems to be more Yellow flag days now than before-and that’s right! But how can that be if the air quality is better than it was 10 years ago? Good question! The answer is-(drum-roll please)-when the air standards were lowered in 2015, they also change the AQI numbers. To be a Green day in 2008, the ozone level could be up to 0.059 parts per million (ppm). Now, it can only be up to 0.054 ppm. Also, in 2008, the Yellow flag started when the ozone level was 0.060 ppm and went up to 0.075 ppm. Now the Yellow flag starts when the ozone level is 0.055 ppm and goes up to 0.070 ppm (see Table and Graphs below).

AQI Category AQI Index 2008 ppm 2015 ppm
Good 0-50 0.000-0.059 0.000-0.054
Moderate 51-100 0.060-0.075 0.055-0.070
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 101-150 0.076-0.095 0.071-0.085
Unhealthy 151-200 0.096-0.115 0.086-0.105

BAQ-table-2

So, before 2015, we DID have more Green flag days.

BAQ-table-3

Now, we see more Yellow flag days. But remember, Yellow flag days are good days to be outside, too!

 

DHEC in the News: Air quality alert tips, opioids, invisible public health crisis in rural South

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Safety tips when under an air quality alert

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) — Fighting off the heat is typical at this time of year but the battle can be extra hard for some people.

Wednesday, DHEC issued an air quality alert between 10 a-m and 8 p-m. Those most at risk for getting sick were small children, older adults and people with respiratory problems. And because it’s likely there will be more alerts this summer health officials have these tips:

Opioid crisis: Tega Cay police offer new way residents can safely dispose of meds

TEGA CAY – Local residents who have unused or expired prescription drugs can now safely dispose of them at home.

Misuse of opioid-based drugs continues to impact communities across the country.

So far this year, there have been 13 overdose deaths in York County, eight of which were related to opioids, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. Other deaths that are presumed to be overdoses are awaiting toxicology results. There were 550 drug overdose deaths involving opiates in South Carolina in 2016, a 7 percent increase from 2015 and an 18 percent increase from 2014, according to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control

General Interest

The rural South’s invisible public health crisis

When Pamela Rush flushes her toilet, the waste flows out the back of her sky blue mobile home through a yellowing plastic pipe and empties just a few yards away in a soggy pit of mud, weeds, and dead grass.

On a hot day in mid-May, Rush walked around her yard in rural Lowndes County, Alabama. Flies and mosquitoes swarmed her as she tiptoed near the pit. The smell of sewage was overwhelming.

Rush, 48, a soft-spoken woman with striking brown eyes, has straight-piped her family’s waste into her yard for almost two decades. Her home is on the edge of clay dirt road in the dense Alabama forest, miles from a municipal sewer system. …

In the rural South, these conditions aren’t uncommon.

From Other Blogs: Sun safety, protect your vision, eating out with food allergies & more

A collection of health and environmental posts from other governmental blogs.

5 Simple Sun Safety Strategies

Skin cancer can sometimes be deadly, and the treatment often leaves scars. Why take the risk? There are many ways to be sun safe. Find strategies that work for you and your family, so you can keep your skin healthy and still have fun! From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) The Topic is Cancer blog

Eight tips to help you protect your vision

From the moment you wake up until you go to bed at night, your eyes are working to bring you the world. In fact, your eyes deliver 80 percent of the information you take in every day, which is why it’s important to protect your vision.vision

Lisa Niven, OD, optometrist for Palmetto Health-USC Ophthalmology, believes you can take steps to help improve your eye health.  From Flourish, Palmetto Health’s blog

Going Out to Eat with Food Allergies

Rick, Lois, Angus, and Samantha visit a new restaurant to celebrate Rick’s birthday. They are excited to try the restaurant they’ve heard so much about. The host seats them and they start looking over their menus to decide what to order. Lois is allergic to peanuts, so she wonders about the ingredients in the eggrolls.

The server approaches the table to take their orders. Lois asks if the restaurant has an ingredient list for the egg rolls. The server says yes and brings the list. Lois sees that the eggrolls contain peanuts, but the salad doesn’t, so she decides to have the salad Food_Safety_iStock_000046432084_XXXLargeinstead. …

Before the restaurant opened last month, staff received training on food allergies including what to do if a customer has an allergic reaction. …

Food allergies are a growing public health issue—about 15 million Americans have food allergies. And food allergic reactions are responsible for about 30,000 emergency room visits and 150-200 deaths a year.  From the CDC’s Your Health Your Environment blog

Food Safety Tips during Ramadan

Ramadan is observed by more than 1 billion Muslims around the world. This holy month is a time of fasting and prayer for the followers of Islam, who abstain from food and drink each day from dawn until dusk. The end of Ramadan is marked with a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr, which stands for “breaking of the fast.” The celebration involves lavish dinners, which include delicacies and large dishes of lamb, chicken, omelets and salads.

During large celebrations, it’s important to ensure food safety measures are taken to avoid getting family and friends sick. From the US Department of Agriculture blog

2018 Predicted to be Challenging Wildfire Year

The USDA Forest Service is well prepared to respond to wildfires in what is currently forecast to be another challenging year. In 2018, the agency has more than 10,000 firefighters, 900 engines, and hundreds of aircraft available to manage wildfires in cooperation with federal, tribal, state, local, and volunteer partners.

Large parts of the western U.S. are predicted to have above-average potential for significant wildfire activity this year, according to the latest forecast released by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). The “National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook,” released May 1st, predicts above-average significant wildland fire potential in about a dozen Western states at various times between now and the end of August, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. From the USDA blog

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” a time to raise awareness about what you need to do to protect your hearing.

Did You Know?

Repeated exposure to loud noise over the years can damage your hearing—long after exposure has stopped.

This is just one of the many informative facts available on CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health’s new hearing loss website: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/default.html. From the CDC’s Your Health Your Environment blog

The Ozone Forecasting Season is Upon Us

Spring is here and that means the return of the ozone forecasting season (April 1 through Sept. 30). As we drive in our vehicles, the exhaust contributes to ground-level ozone in our atmosphere. Under certain conditions, ozone levels can be high enough that an Ozone Action Day, or “orange day” alert is issued. High levels can adversely impact people who are sensitive to ozone pollution, especially children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems.

You can check the daily ozone forecast during the season in one of two ways:

1)  Visit www.scdhec.gov/apps/environment/ozoneforecast/.

2)  Sign up to receive the ozone forecast at www.enviroflash.info.

In the event an Ozone Action Day is issued, there are some things you can do to help curb ozone pollution:

1)  If you live close enough, consider walking or biking to work or to run errands.

2)  Consider carpooling with people who live in your neighborhood and work close to you. To find a carpool, try www.erideshare.com.

3)  If your neighborhood is served by public transportation, take the bus.

4)  Telecommute from home or satellite office (if applicable to your work schedule).

If we all do our part to reduce the effects of ozone pollution, we can improve our air quality here in South Carolina!