Tag 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: Opioid overdoses, air quality, preventing infection & more

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

Raising Awareness to Prevent Prescription Opioid Overdoses

In 2016, 115 Americans died every day from an opioid overdose – that is more than 42,000 drug overdose deaths that involved an opioid including prescription opioids, heroin, and/or illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects.

Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. Families across the county are dealing with the health, emotional, and economic effects of the opioid epidemic. The opioid overdose epidemic is a public health emergency and Americans of all races and ages are being killed by opioid overdoses. — From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Public Health Matters blog

Why the USDA Forest Service Monitors Air Quality during Wildland Fires

Air Quality Awareness Week raises mindfulness about the importance of air quality issues. The USDA Forest Service commemorates the week and its 2018 theme “Air Quality Where You Are” with partners. This year, the Forest Service is featuring one area where air resource management is essential – wildland firefighting.

Recognizing the growing threat that wildfire smoke poses to the health and safety of the public and fire personnel, the Forest Service partnered with other federal, state and tribal agencies to implement a proactive and determined response. This included development of new modeling techniques to more accurately characterize emissions from wildfires. It also included creation of a new position in the fire organization – the Air Resource Advisor (ARA). — From the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) blog

A Back to Basics Approach to Prevent Infection

It was hard to see it happen. We were watching a friend’s basketball game when the young boy fell down and began to bleed from a cut on his arm. The referee sent him out of the game and over to his coach who took out a bandage and slapped it on the wound without cleaning the cut. Calling a time-out, the coach put the boy back in the game.

My daughter and I looked at each other in disbelief.  My son, her brother, Rory, had fallen playing basketball in 2012. The gym teacher had applied a bandage without cleaning the wound. Despite us bringing him to his pediatrician and hospital when he began to feel ill, Rory died from septic shock four days later. The source of the infection that ravaged his body is believed to be from the scrape on his arm. — From the CDC’s Safe Healthcare blog

A Less Allergenic Peanut Extract for Use in Allergy Treatment

As baseball season gets into full swing, many fans enjoy traditional ballpark favorites like peanuts. But not everyone can safely savor this popular treat. Peanuts induce an allergic reaction in millions of Americans.

Peanut allergy is a major public health concern, especially for children. “This is the most common cause of anaphylaxis in children and has become more prevalent in recent years,” says recently retired Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food technologist Si-Yin Chung. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that has a quick onset. — From the USDA blog

It’s Air Quality Awareness Week. Be Air Aware.

This is Air Quality Awareness Week, a great time to learn how air quality affects your health. Topics for this week, which runs May 1-5, include:

  • wildfires
  • asthma and air quality
  • air quality trends
  • air quality around the world
  • citizen science

Wildfires

Wildfires cause major air quality issues as they emit harmful gases and particles.  Wildfire smoke can travel thousands of miles. The South Atlantic region, including the Carolinas, experiences the most wildfires, about three times the national average. South Carolina Forestry Commission firefighters respond to about 3,000 wildfires annually. In October 2016, a series of wildfires began in the Southern Appalachians, and continued into early December.

To protect your health during a wildfire stay indoors with windows closed, put air conditioners on “recirculate” mode, and pay attention to air quality reports via local media.

Did you know? Controlled fires, managed by skilled professionals, can greatly reduce the chance of a damaging wildfire.   

Asthma and Air Quality

Asthma is a long-term condition affecting the lungs/respiratory system and making it difficult to breathe. In 2013, 400,000 South Carolinians — including 100,000 children — suffered from asthma. Air pollutants, such as particulate matter and ozone, can exacerbate asthma symptoms.  Visit DHEC’s ozone forecast page or sign up to receive air quality alerts from Enviroflash.

Check out DHEC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking tool to find more information on how asthma and air quality affect South Carolinians. The EPA also has information available on Asthma and Outdoor Air Pollution.

Air Quality Trends

Historically, as sources of air pollution have increased — coal burning, factories, automobiles, power plants — air quality has declined. However, in the United States, beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, air quality has improved while the GDP, population, vehicle miles traveled and energy usage has increased. How is this possible? The Clean Air Act. Learn more about air quality trends across the US in this interactive trend report on Our Nation’s Air.

 Air Quality Around the World

 While air quality in the US has improved since the passage of the Clean Air Act, many cities and areas across the globe continue to struggle with air quality problems. Issues include wind-blown smoke and dust, vehicle emissions and industrial pollution. See the presentation Air Quality Around the World for examples of global air quality challenges and some novel strategies for addressing air pollution.

 Citizen Science 

 Citizen science refers to research collaborations between professional scientists and citizen volunteers.  Citizen science projects can engage citizens in data collection and analysis in their communities. EPA’s “Village Green” project, for example, uses wind- and solar-powered park benches to collect minute-to-minute air measurements for ozone, particle pollution and weather conditions.

Lichens and mosses can be an indicator of air quality health. US federal agencies have been monitoring lichen health on federal lands since the early 2000s, and recently more citizens have been becoming involved in monitoring efforts. Programs like Michigan Tech’s “Mobile Environmental Citizen Science” and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Citizen Science Central,” also show how citizen science can contribute.

Make checking the ozone forecast part of your data collection, and feel free to download and use our desktop Air Quality Forecast signs.