Summer is here, and that means it's time to Know Your Air and Help Your Air. Colorado's Front Range, including Broomfield, does not meet current federal standards for air quality. You've probably noticed that on some days the air quality is so poor you can't see the beloved Flatirons and Rockies. There are simple steps we can all take to protect our lungs and ways we can contribute to improving our air quality.
- Sign up for air quality alerts, so you can know if your air is safe to be active in.
Know Your Air
Did you know that poor air quality can impact your health, especially if you are part of a sensitive population? Poor air quality in the Front Range is typically due to two sources: ground level ozone or wildfire smoke. Learn more about wildfire smoke at Broomfield.org/AirQuality.
Ozone is one of the six common air pollutants, and is caused by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Much of VOC and NOx emissions in the Front Range are due to vehicle traffic and industry sources. When NOx and VOC combine with sunlight and heat, ozone is born! Ozone at ground-level can cause a variety of health concerns for sensitive people, particularly the elderly, young children, and those with asthma or other respiratory problems.
Health Impacts from Ozone
When inhaled, ground level ozone can cause lung and throat irritation, coughing, pain when taking a deep breath, wheezing, and trouble breathing while exercising. According to the CDC, people with asthma or lung diseases, those who work outdoors, older adults, babies, and children may be more likely to experience health symptoms. The American Lung Association states that breathing in ozone is like getting a sunburn on your lungs. Ozone exposure can cause asthma attacks, increased risk of respiratory infections, increased risk of hospitalization for sensitive individuals and a higher risk of death from long-term exposure. In addition, your pets can also experience symptoms from exposure to high ozone.
Protect Your Health from Ozone
Before exercising or spending a lot of time outdoors on warm, sunny days, it’s best to check the ozone conditions in your area. When ozone levels are high, limit outdoor exposure to air, especially high intensity outdoor exercise. According to the CDC, you can take the following steps to protect your respiratory health when ozone levels are high:
- Think about spending more time indoors, where ozone levels are usually lower.
- Choose easier outdoor activities so you don’t breathe as hard.
- Plan outdoor activities in the morning and evening, when ozone levels are usually lower.
Help Your Air
Broomfield has ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets to reduce community-wide (residential, municipal, and commercial) greenhouse gas emissions. Learn more about the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan and get involved.
How Can I Improve Broomfield's Air Quality Today?
Although air quality is impacted by commercial sources and industry, there are plenty of simple steps that anyone can take to improve air quality. Everyone doing one simple step, over time, can make an impactful change in air quality.
- Carpooling or vanpooling to share a car trip has plenty of advantages, including keeping the air clean. In addition to gas savings, carpooling and vanpooling reduces parking woes and allows access to Metro Denver’s HOV Express Lanes. When you register on MyWaytoGo.org, you become part of a regional database with over 10,000 users for carpool matching.
- Take public transportation. Public transit choices are very beneficial to overall air quality. In fact, Broomfield, Interlocken and the NEW Broomfield North FlexRide transit services are ZERO FARE for everyone in June, July, and August! Bonus - ALL RTD service will be ZERO FARE this July and August as well! Learn more about FlexRide and other public transportation options.
- Skip two car trips each week. If you skip two car trips each week and replace them with other ways to get around, you decrease traffic congestion and improve our air quality. Emissions from cars, trucks, vans, and motorcycles are some of the largest contributors to ground-level ozone in Metro Denver. Teleworking is a great way to skip a car trip, if that is available to you! If you walk, jog, or bike instead of driving, make sure you check the air quality to make sure you're not over-exerting yourself on poor air quality days.
- Combine trips. Sometimes you just need to drive - adopt a "while I'm out" approach! Here are a few ideas about how to combine trips:
- Pick one day each week to run errands. You can even create an “errand bag” and fill it with reminders so you won’t forget anything while you’re out.
- If you order delivery, ask for a bundled shipment to save trips and in the summer, have deliveries sent after 5:00 p.m.
Fill up your car after 5 p.m. on hot, sunny days to prevent air pollution.
Switch to electric lawn equipment, and/or mow your lawn after 5 p.m. Visit MowDownPollution.org for information on the Regional Air Quality Council’s lawn mower exchange program.
Avoid idling your car. When your car is stopped for more than a few minutes, turn off your engine to prevent air pollution.
Don't paint or use solvents. Paints and solvents can increase VOCs in the air. Avoid painting and cleaning on poor air quality days. Check for low or zero -VOC labels on products or use water-based cleaners, paints and other products around the house.
Avoid burning on poor air quality days. Particulate matter from burning can make air quality worse. Make sure you have a Burn Permit if you plan on burning material on your property. Sign up for fire restriction and ban alerts from North Metro Fire.
Never burn on red flag warning days to help prevent wildfires - sign up for notifications through LookoutAlert (once logged into the system, edit your alert types and select those you’d like to receive).
Use energy efficient appliances and lighting. Energy efficient appliances and lighting reduces the demand for electricity generation, and therefore reduces air pollution. Xcel Energy and United Power have rebates and incentives to help customers make energy efficient improvements to their homes and save money on utility bills.
How Can I Improve Broomfield's Air Quality Long-term?
- The ambitious goals for greenhouse gas reduction and zero waste set by Broomfield City Council will affect air quality in Broomfield over the coming decades. Visit the Sustainability Hub to learn more about these efforts and how you can participate.
- Learn more about simple steps you can take to improve air quality at Simple Steps Better Air.
- Learn more about air quality in Colorado at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Air Quality page.