air quality

Collaborating with Local Communities to Measure Air Pollution

By Michaela Burns

I am no stranger to air pollution. Since I grew up in New York City, my walk to school every morning put me in constant contact with car exhaust and smoke rising from the vendor stations that lined the sidewalks. None of these experiences ever struck me as odd. They were just a part of the city’s charm! We had the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and we had air pollution. On particularly smoggy days, when I could barely see the city from my window, I always comforted myself with the fact that it was a problem far out of my league. After all, I was just an ordinary kid, not a scientist — what could I do to help? Nothing of course.

Once I started working at EPA, I found out that I had been completely wrong. Managing air pollution is a big job, but it can be made easier when the whole community gets involved. We call it “citizen science” — where people without a background in research can use scientific tools to address problems in their environment. To support this fast-growing field, EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program is funding six grants to evaluate how effective low-cost, portable air sensors are when used in communities.

APM4C Blog Picture

EPA researcher Eben Thoma adjusts an SPod monitor.

EPA grant winners at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will use community-based air sensors to measure air quality and volcanic smog (“vog”) exposure on the Island of Hawai‘i (“the Big Island”). Up the coast at the University of Washington, researchers plan to deploy air sensors in student-directed studies examining heavy wood smoke impacts in their rural community. The team will work in partnership with Heritage University, whose students represent the local population of predominantly Yakama Nation and Latino immigrant families, to identify effective ways to communicate pollutant results to a broader audience. And this is just a sample of the diverse group of projects being done to help make air sensors more available to the public across the U.S. Other efforts include:

Carnegie Mellon University. Researchers will investigate the accuracy and reliability of existing air sensors, as well as their efficacy when put to use in Pittsburgh communities.

Kansas State University. Researchers will investigate if communities in South Chicago become more engaged in learning about their environment if they are provided with low-cost air sensors and the information generated by them.

Research Triangle Institute This research team will investigate how low-cost sensors can be used to help the Globeville, Elyria, Swansea (GES) community north of Denver, Colorado measure and understand data indicating the air quality in their neighborhood. The team will also evaluate the effectiveness of how information is presented to enable residents to understand their exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollutants and potentially empower them to take action to protect their health.

South Coast Air Quality Management District. This research team will provide local California communities with the knowledge necessary to select, use, and maintain low-cost, commercially available air monitoring sensors and to correctly interpret sensor data. The group will communicate the lessons learned to the public through a series of outreach activities.

By supporting the development and deployment of air monitoring technology, EPA is empowering ordinary citizens to take action against air pollution. Looking out for your community can be as easy as using our air sensor toolbox for citizen scientists to find out how to monitor the air quality in your neighborhood. With tools in reach, there’s no reason not to become a citizen scientist today!

About the author: Michaela Burns is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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We’re at Our Best When We Work Together: The 2016 Wildfire Smoke Guide for Public Health Officials

By Wayne Cascio and Susan Stone

The summer wildfire season is upon us and almost every day we hear of communities endangered by wildfire or wildfire smoke.  Even now, as we write this blog, there are more than 20 large wildfires across the U.S. that could be affecting your health.  So, when wildfires threaten, where can public officials, communities, and individuals turn for the most up-to-date public health guidance?  They can look to the 2016 Wildfire Smoke: Guide for Public Health Officials.  The Guide has been a trusted source of information for those responsible for protecting the public’s health and welfare since 2001.

cover of the wildfire guideThe updated 2016 guide is an easy-to-use source of information that outlines whose health is most affected by wildfire smoke, how to reduce exposure to smoke, what public health actions are recommended, and how to communicate air quality to the public.  This just-published guide is the product of a collaborative undertaking by federal, state, and non-governmental wildfire experts. These include EPA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Forest Service, California Air Resources Board, California Department of Public Health, Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The recommendations are founded on scientific evidence, and EPA researchers have contributed much to our understanding of the adverse health effects of wildfire smoke.  Today, EPA researchers are actively working to increase what we know about the health effects of the smoke produced by different kinds of natural fuels such as grasses, pine and hardwood forests and peat.  We are learning about the chemistry of the emissions of wildfires, how the smoke is transported, and how it changes over time.  We are also looking at ways to identify communities at particularly high risk from the health effects of wildfire, and how policies related to air quality could consider wildfire smoke.

The increasing size and severity of wildfire in the U.S. over the last three decades represents one of the many complex environmental health challenges we face today that are best solved through the cooperation of local, state and federal government, public health organizations, communities and individuals.  The fact that wildfires are contributing to a greater proportion of our air pollution, and impacting populated areas more frequently underscores the importance of this challenge.  The 2016 Wildfire Smoke: Guide for the Public Health Officials represents a great example of cooperation to meet an environmental challenge and protect the health of the public.

You can learn more about the health effects of wildfires, obtain current fire advisories, and learn what to do before, during, and after a fire on the AirNow website, a place to get information on daily air quality forecasts based on EPA’s Air Quality Index.

USDA Forest Service Active Fire Mapping Program

Learn about EPA’s wildland fire research

About the authors:

Dr. Wayne Cascio spent more than 25 years as a cardiologist before joining EPA’s Office of Research and Development where he now leads research on the links between exposures to air pollution and public health, and how people can use that information to maintain healthy hearts.

Susan Stone, senior environmental scientist in EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, is the Air Quality Index team leader, the project lead for revisions to the wildfire guide, and contributor to EPA wildfire health research.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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It’s Air Quality Awareness Week. How Can You Be Aware of Your Air Quality?

Rooftop air monitor

Rooftop air monitor (photo: NYSDEC)

By Bob Kelly

There are at least three levels of air quality data you can use in everyday life: neighborhood data, sidewalk data and right-where-you-are data. (Data from satellites are interesting, but not used so much on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, personal level.)

‘Neighborhood’ data are from the air monitors run by the state air pollution agencies. You can get these data in within an hour or so of sampling from Based on these data and weather conditions, state agencies forecast air quality alerts, when needed. Be alerted by signing up for email notifications from your state or via your state’s page. Neighborhood data are often from rooftop locations since we need information on air pollution over large areas using the fewest monitors possible to efficiently spend taxpayer dollars. Neighborhood sites are often selected because they have air pollution concentrations similar to air pollution in other areas not monitored. This way, you get good quality data which gives an overview of air pollution across the city.

A second level of air quality data we can call ‘sidewalk’ data. Since pollution varies from your sidewalk compared to many other sidewalk locations, we would need hundreds of air quality sites to know what’s happening all the time. But special studies tell us what is happening at the sidewalk level. A good example of this is the New York City Community Air Survey. New York City uses special monitors for two weeks at a time, applying statistics to ‘fill in’ the areas between the neighborhood monitors. Even if you don’t live in New York City, use the information from this study to ‘fill in’ the areas between monitors in your location. Do you live near major highways, or a large boiler that combusts oil or gas (or wood)? This way, you can adapt neighborhood data to where you live, work or exercise.

A third level of air quality data is right-where-you-are data. Perhaps you have a portable air pollution sensor, as many do on their smartphones, to sample the air around you. As you learn where air pollution is highest, you can spend less time in locations with higher concentrations. You may even find cleaner places with your sensor. You can compare data from your sensor with neighborhood monitors and when air quality alerts are issued to find how widespread air pollution affects the where-you-are level. Most importantly, you can use all this information from every level with awareness of how you feel on any given day to learn what level of air quality affects your health. Is it harder to breathe on some days? Are your running times or amount of exercise you can do different as air pollution levels change?

Compare your health with air quality measurements from neighborhood monitors, information from sidewalk statistics and data from right-where-you-are to make your own decisions on where you’ll go today and what kind of exercise is best for your health today.


About the author: Bob is an air pollution meteorologist with the Air Programs Branch. He enjoys taking a few minutes from reviewing state air pollution cleanup plans to pass along the air quality forecasts to help keep people informed about what is happening in the air around them.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Simulating Wildland Fires in a Tube to Protect Public Health

By Dina Abdulhadi

After a long day of backpacking in the woods, I always look forward to watching the story arc of a campfire. The flames grow slowly, then leap up as the fire builds momentum. As the fire calms, the logs smolder and glow with heat.

Wildfires have similar phases. During an active fire, flames rapidly move over the landscape. The remaining embers can smolder on for days to weeks after the fire front passes, depending on what trees or other vegetation are there to fuel the fire. These two factors—what is burning and whether it’s flaming or smoldering—affect the smoke that people ultimately breathe.

To study the potential health risks of breathing wildfire smoke, a major form of air pollution, researchers at EPA are now using a technology that mimics these phases of a fire in a laboratory in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Originally developed to investigate tobacco’s health effects, this Biomass Furnace System allows researchers to study the chaotic nature of fire in a controlled setting and compare emissions from different trees during the fire and smoldering stages. Knowing these differences will provide more information to protect public health and enable air quality managers to prepare for the increased wildfires we expect in the future due to climate change and drought.

Tube used to conduct simulation

Biomass Fuel Combustion System


Particulate matter (PM) is one of the main pollutants created by fire. These tiny particles are produced when anything is burned—whether that’s the logs to your campfire or gasoline ignited to fuel your car’s engine. Many studies have linked it to effects on the heart and lungs.

During 2011, wildfires and controlled burns alone contributed up to 41 percent of emitted PM pollution in the U.S. This pollution can have drastic effects on the local community, but it can also affect the air breathed by those far away as the smoke drifts.

To understand the growing impact of wildfires on human health, researchers plan to look at effects on the heart, nervous system (such as headaches), and respiratory system from a variety of wood fuels by using models. They’ll also investigate if PM from wildfire smoke is more or less harmful than PM from other sources of air pollution, like car exhaust.

map of potential fires across US

Map showing distribution of potential wildfire fuels across the United States (Credit: Yongho Kim)

According to the National Fire Center, two fires are burning right now in my state of North Carolina alone. When you consider what could be happening in the other 49 states as well, this kind of research becomes that much more valuable for scientists working to protect public health.

Want to learn more about the research EPA conducts on wildfires to protect human health and the environment? Listen to our Science Bite Podcast Following the Smoke: Wildfires and Health.

About the author: Dina Abdulhadi is a student contractor working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Particulate Matter in a Changing World: Grants to Combat the Impacts of Climate Change

By Christina Burchette

There are certain things that are always changing: the weather, fashion trends, and technology (which iPhone are we on again?) are a few that come to mind. I can always count on the fact that these things won’t stay the same for long. But there are other things that I typically expect to remain the same: I expect to get hungry around lunchtime, I expect the bus to come every morning, and I expect to be able to breathe clean air. I don’t even think about the possibility of these things not happening—until something changes.

I definitely don’t think about air quality often or expect it to change. As long as I’m breathing and well, why would I? But in reality, air quality changes every day, and over time it may change a lot depending on how we treat our environment—and we need to be ready for these changes. This is why EPA recently awarded research grants to 12 universities to protect air quality from current and future challenges associated with climate change impacts.

Climate change is affecting air quality by influencing the type and amount of pollutants in the air. One type of pollutant present in our air is particulate matter, or PM. Long-term exposure to PM is linked to various health effects, including heart disease and lung function, and it doesn’t take a high concentration to affect our bodies. The more PM there is in the air, the more likely we are to be affected by health conditions.

landscape of Death Valley National Park with dust storm

A dust storm in Death Valley National Park

With EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants, university researchers are approaching the future of air quality from multiple angles with a focus on learning more about the PM-climate change relationship. They will study the impacts of increased wildfire activity that generates PM, often called soot, in the Rocky Mountains. They will look at the impacts that climate change and land use change have on the development of dust storms in the West and Southwest; and they will evaluate the best means of energy production in California where air quality is among the worst in the nation to reduce health care costs and lower levels of PM and greenhouse gases.

Over the next few decades, climate change will be the catalyst for various environmental trends, so finding a way to manage the impacts of these trends is essential to protecting our health. The work these grantees do will help to inform air quality managers and others to make sustainable and cost-effective decisions that keep our air quality at healthy levels and protect public health and the environment. That way, future generations will think of good air quality as something we can expect.

To learn more about these grants and read the abstracts, visit the Particulate Matter and Related Pollutants in a Changing World results page.

About the Author: Christina Burchette is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Air Quality Awareness: A New Generation of Research

By Dan Costa, Sc.D.

Graphic of clouds and buildings in a silhouette cityscape. It’s Air Quality Awareness Week! This week, EPA is showing how we care about the air by announcing grants to three institutions to create air research centers. We now understand more than ever about the threats of air pollution to environmental and human health, but there is still more to learn. EPA has a history of supporting research and development that complements the work of our own staff scientists to bolster scientific knowledge about the effects of air pollution. EPA uses this knowledge to address many pressing questions and understand connections between our changing environment and human health.

Since 1999, EPA has funded three rounds of research centers through a competitive grant process. The scientific experts at these centers have contributed to a more complete understanding of the persistent air quality challenges that continue to face our nation. The first round of EPA funded air research centers focused on particulate matter and examined the link between particulate matter and cardiovascular disease. In 2005, the next round of centers focused on whether differing health effects could be linked to specific sources of air pollution. By 2010, it was clear that to get an accurate understanding of real life exposures, we needed to examine the health effects of exposure to multiple pollutants at once instead of just one or two at a time. The third round of centers took on this complex challenge. The next step is to delve into questions regarding how the health effects of air pollution may vary in different cities and regions across our country – each with its own unique characteristics and set of pollution sources.

This leads us to today and our exciting announcement–EPA is awarding $30 million through its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program to fund the establishment of Air, Climate, and Energy (ACE) Research Centers at Yale University, Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University. These Centers will consider changing energy production methods and local climate, while investigating the effects of global climate change, technology, and societal choices on local air quality and health.

I am eagerly anticipating the many new tools and ideas that will be produced by this next generation of EPA funded air research centers.

About the Author: Dan Costa is the national program director for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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EPA “Aim High” Success Stories on Climate and Air Quality

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

The public health case for climate action is compelling beyond words. The interagency Climate and Health Assessment released last month confirms that climate change endangers our health by affecting our food and water sources, the weather we experience, and the air we breathe. And we know that it will exacerbate certain health threats that already exist – while also creating new ones.

As we celebrate the recent signing of the historic Paris Agreement by countries around the world, there’s no better time to reflect on EPA’s many ongoing efforts to fight climate change and protect the air we breathe.

As part of our “Aim High” effort to highlight success stories from across the agency, I asked EPA staff to share examples of their work to protect public health by taking action on climate and air quality. Here are some highlights:

Child with pinwheel and blue sky in the background.Asthma Awareness Month: Asthma affects nearly 23 million Americans and disproportionally impacts low-income and minority communities. In the U.S., the direct medical costs of asthma and indirect costs, such as missed school and work days, amount to over $50 billion a year. Every May, EPA leads a National Asthma Awareness Campaign to increase public awareness about asthma risks, strengthen partnerships with community-based asthma organizations, and recognize exceptional asthma programs that are making a difference. Every year, this effort reaches 9,000 groups and individuals and provides them with the information and motivation to take action.

Group photo of employees from EPA and the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency .U.S EPA Africa Megacity Partnership: EPA’s environmental program in sub-Saharan Africa is focused on addressing the region’s growing urban and industrial pollution issues, including air quality and indoor air from cookstoves. The World Health Organization estimates that exposure to smoke from cooking causes 4.3 million premature deaths per year. EPA and the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency are working together under the Africa Megacities Partnership to develop an integrated air quality action plan for Accra. As a result of this partnership, Ghana EPA has already made significant progress using air quality monitoring and analysis and is serving as a model for other African cities with limited data, that want to take action.

Group of people by reservoir impacted by drought.Climate Change and Water Utilities: Between 1980 and 2015, the United States was impacted by more than 20 major droughts, each costing over one billion dollars. EPA staff in the Office of Water developed an easy-to-use guide to assist small- to medium-sized water utilities with responding to drought. The Drought Response and Recovery Guide for Water Utilities, release last month, includes best practices, implementation examples and customizable worksheets that help states and communities set short-term/emergency action plans, while also building long-term resilience to drought. EPA staff also developed an interactive drought case study map that tells the story of how seven diverse small- to medium-sized utilities in California, Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma were challenged by drought impacts and were able to successfully respond to and recover from drought.

Screenshot of EPA Region 1 Valley Indication Tool.Outreach on Risks from Wood Smoke: Exposure to particle pollution from wood smoke has been linked to a number of adverse health effects. Valleys in New England, where terrain and meteorology contribute to poor dispersion of pollutants, are especially vulnerable during winter air inversions. EPA Region 1 used publically available study results, databases and in-house Geographic Information System resources to develop “The Valley Identification Tool” that identifies populated valleys throughout New England that are at risk for wood-smoke pollution. Using this tool, EPA and state air quality managers and staff can better plan air-quality monitoring, outreach, and mitigation.

Biogas facilityBiogas to Energy: Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRFs) help recover water, nutrients, and energy from wastewater. EPA Region 9 is working with WRRFs to boost energy production through the addition of non-traditional organic wastes ranging from municipally collected food scraps to the byproducts of food processing facilities and agricultural production. As a result of these efforts, some of these facilities are becoming “energy positive,” producing enough energy to power the facility and transferring excess energy into the electricity grid for use by others. EPA, in collaboration with universities and industry, is also working to collect and share information on co-digestion practices and biogas management technologies. This work helps improve understanding of the air quality impacts of biogas-to-energy technologies and helps state and local governments, regulators, and developers identify cleaner, geographically-appropriate and cost-effective biogas management options.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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This Spring, Show How You Care About the Air

By Jenny Noonan

What do our kids need to know about air quality? How can we teach them about the links between health and air pollution?  With a pre-kindergartener and a 3rd grader at home, my husband and I are always looking for ways to engage them about the fragility and resilience of the natural world. My job at EPA helps me do that and Asthma Awareness Month and Air Quality Awareness Week (May 2-6, 2016) give me a focus each spring.

This year’s Air Quality Awareness Week theme, Show How You Care About the Air, is a great opportunity to take to social media to share the importance of clean air to my family and yours.

For 10 years, we have sought out state and local partnerships to raise awareness about the connections between air quality and health. We’re highlighting events sponsored by our partners on our website. Show How You Care About the Air is a coordinated theme with a special focus each day of the week, including:

Monday, May 2                 Highlighting State and Local Events

Tuesday, May 3                 Asthma and Air Quality (World Asthma Day)

Wednesday, May 4            Air Quality Around the World

Thursday, May 5               Air Quality Trends

Friday, May 6                    Citizen Science

As part of Asthma Awareness Month, we will be sponsoring two Twitter chats to increase awareness. The first will discuss topics such as the environmental triggers of asthma – both indoors and out – and how you can develop a personal asthma plan to help manage these triggers. You can follow along or participate in this chat, co-sponsored with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on May 3, from 2-3 pm by following #AsthmaChat, or leave a question below.

We will also be hosting a Twitter chat with CDC on air quality issues on May 5, from 1-2 pm. This chat will talk about topics like the impacts of air pollution on human health, and how you can use air quality tools to reduce your exposure to pollution. Join the conversation at #AirQualityChat, or leave a question below.

Finally, everyone has an opportunity to take a selfie or other photo showing how you care about the air during Air Quality Awareness Week 2016 and share it on the AirNow Facebook page.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Cockroaches in the School Kitchen

By Marcia Anderson

Cockroaches can be major pests in restaurants, hospitals, warehouses, offices and buildings with food-handling areas. Cockroaches are known to carry human pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can result in human diseases, such as food poisoning or diarrhea.cockroaches on the floor

This message came from the state of Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Really, it could come from nearly any state, any country or any continent. Cockroaches are one of the most common animals on earth.

Late last summer, I visited a school in the Northeast that was overrun with cockroaches. A custodian led us to classrooms, restrooms, storage areas and, finally, the cafeteria and kitchen. Most of it was cleaned during summer break. But when we entered the cafeteria, we found the floor littered with debris – food wrappers, papers, plastic drink bottles, and food.

We flicked on the lights and the floor moved. Thousands of cockroaches were scurrying from the light. We did a dance to avoid the mass of moving bodies.

Custodians had been directed to clean the building from the top down and the kitchen and cafeteria were on the ground floor. They were told not to clean the kitchen – that was up to kitchen staff. As the end of the year approaches, this results could be instructive for this year’s summer cleaners.

The kitchen staff had only a few days at the end of the school year to clean. Countertops, stovetops and sinks appeared clean, but ovens were caked with grease, as were pipes coming from the stoves, and floors under appliances.

Amer Cockroach  Clemson Univ  USDA Coop ex  Bugwood  1233111Large indoor cockroach populations are a leading cause of allergies, asthma and other bronchial disorders. In fact, cockroaches are one of the main triggers for asthma attacks for children in inner cities..

The presence of cockroaches is an indication that food, moisture and save havens for the roaches are present. Conditions in this school kitchen allowed the cockroach population to explode.

We advised the school to reduce the cockroach infestation by incorporating Integrated Pest Management practices. EPA recommends all schools manage pests using this approach.

Cockroach control is best accomplished through prevention, exclusion, sanitation and monitoring. Not only would these measures help prevent an infestation, they would reduce cockroach-related allergens.

Because of the severity of the infestation, we recommended the school get professional advice and service.

Here are some IPM-based actions your school can take to help reduce and prevent cockroaches and other pests. These tips can also work in your home if you have a problem with unwanted insects.

Sanitation. Eliminate sources of food and moisture, as well as hiding places for pests. Every day, sweep and mop areas that could attract cockroaches. Empty trash containers frequently, and line them with plastic bags. Kitchen appliances and areas around appliances should also be kept clean.

Exclusion. Cockroaches easily move through plumbing and electrical connections. Gaps around plumbing, electrical outlets, and switch plates should be sealed. Kitchen staff should scan grocery items for evidence of cockroaches before putting items away. Remove cardboard as cockroaches love to dine on the glue that holds boxes together.

Eliminate Water Sources. The single most important factor in determining cockroach survival is the availability of water. German cockroaches live less than two weeks without water.

Eliminate Harborage. By nature, cockroaches prefer dark, warm cracks and crevices. Any small gap or hole (1/16” or larger) that leads to a void is a prime cockroach living area. These cracks and crevices should be sealed.

Following these simple steps in your school will result in fewer pest problems.

EPA offers information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website and visiting our school IPM website.

Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Driving to show we care

By Gina Snyder

Last summer, I had the opportunity to drive an extended range electric car. This is a vehicle that drives only on the battery until all the charge has been used up, then it uses a gasoline engine and hybrid technology for excellent mileage. But the really interesting thing about this car was the extensive feedback on my driving “performance.”

ElectricCar P1040099

A spinning green globe on the dashboard let me know when I began to accelerate out of the efficient range. Not only that, but on this 90-degree day, when I used air conditioning, the climate conditioning display also showed how much power was going to keep the cabin space cool. It turned out that using the eco-air conditioning used 21 percent of the engine’s power on cooling the cabin, but pushing the ‘comfort’ button drove it all the way up to 35 percent of the engine’s power! That just goes to show how much energy it takes to run air conditioning.

I don’t continuously focus on doing everything possible to conserve fuel when I drive, but I do like to drive with fuel efficiency in mind. The best tip I’ve ever found was to drive a car like you would ride a bike. It helps if you think about spending energy as wisely in your car as you do when you ride.

Here are some examples:

  • Ensure your tires are properly inflated and vehicle is in good mechanical condition – this reduces rolling and mechanical resistance. Proper tire pressure is safer, extends tire life, and can provide up to 3 percent benefit per tankful of fuel.
  • Smart braking means that you coast to stops. Go easy on the gas pedal just like you don’t pedal madly towards stop signs and then jam on the binders on your bike.
  • “Driving with load” on hills saves energy. You don’t usually power up hills trying to maintain your previous cruising speed on your bike, do you?
  • Reduce speed. It’s easier for cyclists, who are highly attuned to the relationship between aerodynamic drag and the energy consumed to travel at high speed.
  • Don’t idle your car unnecessarily. You don’t sit and spin your bike pedals while waiting for someone, nor do you ‘warm up your bike’ in the driveway, do you?

Being attuned to your performance as an efficiency-conscious driver will result in a style that mirrors the smooth and steady progress you make on a bicycle. We can all be smooth operators this summer. Go easy on the brake and gas pedals when you approach traffic lights and stop signs. Stopping and accelerating gradually not only gives you a smoother ride, it saves gas—and that’s good for the air and good for you!

Learn more from EPA on Green Vehicles:

Other green driving tips:


About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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