Thursday, May 6, 2010

Air Time: Idling engines contribute to health risks

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

This is Air Quality Awareness Week throughout the nation, so in recognition of that, Ecology’s Air Quality Program is offering a look this week at some key Washington air issues.

When we’re driving, we often idle our vehicle engines. We do it while waiting at stop lights; sitting in lines caused by road work; at drive-through restaurants and coffee stands; at schools while picking up or dropping off our children, and so on.

It’s a routine – a harmful one that hurts air quality and people who breathe in toxic fumes from idling vehicle engines. Stopping unnecessary vehicle idling is one relatively easy way to help improve air quality and respiratory health in our communities.

Here’s an example of someone in Portland taking on the problem. And air quality agencies in the Northwest offer a do-it-yourself kit on putting together an anti-idling effort.

A lot of work has gone in to trying to target idling of engines that burn diesel fuel. That’s because Ecology has identified diesel exhaust as the air pollutant most harmful to public health in Washington.

Seventy percent of the cancer risk from airborne pollutants is from diesel exhaust. It puts healthy people at risk for respiratory disease and worsens the symptoms of people with health problems such as asthma, heart disease and lung disease.

For the past several years, Ecology and local clean air agencies have worked with school districts to provide money to upgrade pollution controls on diesel-burning school buses. Children can be easily exposed to fumes from the buses at schools.

Similar efforts nationally, regionally and here in Washington focus on emissions from idling trains, large trucks, cargo-handling equipment at Washington seaports, and ships.

Obviously, air pollution caused by idling engines is a national issue. But each one of us can do our part to make sure that we help address the problem.

Next up: When it comes to health risks posed by air pollutants, wood smoke ranks near the top in Washington.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, Seth. I was searching EPA for Washington State and got into this page, somehow. I have a question in need of answer and it seems to be related to this post. There is a condo place I am looking into buying. However it is right across a street from a Safeway parking lot. I wonder if the air quality inside the condo will be affected seriously by the cars coming/going, engines starting/stopping and exhumes of the parked cars under the heat of the sun. I will have a baby living here. Will it has more risk than a condo at a location that is not as close to a parking lot? How serious will this be a problem? Thanks if you provide any answer.