Tag Archives: air quality

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.

DHEC Now Accepting Nominations for “Spare the Air” Awards

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Air Quality is accepting nominations for its 2017 “Spare the Air” Awards.  Any project that can demonstrate reductions in air pollution in any part of the State during 2016 is eligible.

The “Spare the Air” Awards are presented to environmental stewards that have made a voluntary commitment to promote and practice initiatives that improve air quality in South Carolina.

“Through partnerships and collaborative efforts of individuals, organizations and local governments, excellent work is being done voluntarily to reduce air pollution and conserve energy in South Carolina,” said Rhonda Thompson, chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality. “Air quality has gained a great deal of attention in recent years and people are recognizing the importance of protecting and improving our air quality.”

Thompson said the awards show appreciation to those who go the extra mile to help protect our environment.

The goals of the awards program are to

  • Promote a healthier environment through air quality initiatives that are sustainable and replicable;
  • Educate, build awareness and motivate others to make better decisions about the environment through air quality improvements;
  • Encourage positive behavioral changes that improve air quality;
  • Strengthen and build partnerships with businesses, organizations and the citizens of South Carolina to improve air quality.

Award categories include:

  • Outstanding Business/Industry
  • Outstanding Employee(s)
  • Outstanding Local Government
  • Outstanding School or District
  • Outstanding College or University
  • Outstanding Community Campaign

Guidelines:

Nominations must be received by February 1, 2017 for 2016 projects. For more information, the award nomination application, and past winners, go to: www.scdhec.gov/sparetheairawards.

Spare the Air Awards

By Bryony Wardell

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is pleased to announce the latest winners of the Spare the Air Awards.  The annual awards honor individuals, businesses, schools, communities and organizations who have made a voluntary contribution to the improvement of air quality in South Carolina.

“Clean, healthy air is an important natural resource that benefits everyone,” said Myra Reece, DHEC’s director of environmental affairs. “This award program celebrates the collaborative efforts of our partners and neighbors who are helping to drive continuous improvement of air quality across the state.”

Congratulations to the Spare The Air Award recipients!

Forest Lake Presbyterian Church
Outstanding Community Improvement Campaign Award
Forest Lake Presbyterian Church was awarded for their efforts to reduce vehicle emissions. The church established an organic garden and collaborated with Harvest Food Bank to distribute locally grown produce to communities, minimizing the need for large trucks  on the highway.

Forest Lake Presbyterian Church

Dr. Reverend Ellen Skidmore accepting the award for Forest Lake Presbyterian Church.

Rock Hill School District Three of York County
Outstanding School District Award
The district’s Energy Management Program saves an estimated $2 million a year. It features outreach activities including a door decal and light switch design contest, an energy shutdown contest and a web-based energy tracking tool.

Rock Hill District 3 Spare the Air.jpg

L-R: Eddie Robinson, facilities trades manager; Kim Melander, district energy manager; Robbie Brown, division director, DHEC; and Brian Vaughan, facilities director.

The University of South Carolina
Outstanding University Award
 The University of South Carolina was awarded for developing strategies to reduce vehicle and facility emissions; improve bicycle, pedestrian and mass transit options; and provide sustainable education opportunities for its campus community.

USC 2015 Spare the Air
L-R Michael Koman, director of USC’s Office of Sustainability; Rhonda Thompson, interim chief, DHEC Bureau of Air; Dr. Harris Pastides, president of USC; Tom Syfert, director of USC’s Environmental Health Safety. 

The City of Seneca/Clemson Area Transit
Outstanding Local Government
The City of Seneca received a Spare the Air Award for becoming the first municipality in the country to run an all-electric mass transit system. The electric fleet was manufactured by Greenville-based Proterra Inc. and is part of the Clemson Area Transit system. These actions reduced harmful emissions and saved money on fuel cost.

Seneca CATBus STA Award 201509

City of Clemson Mayor J.C. Cook, DHEC Environmental Affairs Director Myra Reece and Seneca Mayor Don Alexander at the Spare The Air Award ceremony for Outstanding Local Government.

Enter the Spare The Air Awards!
Have you worked on a voluntary initiative or idea in 2015 that helped improve air quality in South Carolina? Apply for the 2016 Spare the Air Awards for a chance to be recognized by the state for your work! Entries must be received by February 1, 2016. Click here to apply!