Ditch the Keys and Be Car Free to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

It’s the time of year again where people all around the world are preparing to ditch their keys for Car Free Day on September 22 to help reduce traffic congestion and work towards creating a greener environment. Though our cars are convenient and offer a number of benefits, they also contribute a dangerous amount of pollution. Having a day off from driving is highly recommended to raise awareness about these concerns and to help reduce harmful emissions. 

Vehicle exhaust produces thousands of tons of toxic pollution, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that contribute to the formation of ozone smog and particulate matter, which makes it especially hard for sensitive populations to breathe. As the nation and our region continue to navigate the ongoing effects of COVID-19, those same individuals are more at risk for severe disease than others, meaning that Car Free Day takes on additional significance during the current climate. 

Although Car Free Day is only a single day out of the year, the goal is to take heat off the planet and our lungs by alerting individuals of the impact traffic has on quality of life and to inspire lasting change to live more sustainably year-round, not just on special occasions. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources available for residents to ditch their keys and be car free to help take vehicles off area roads and reduce emissions that lead to poor air quality: 

  • Metro Transit – The region’s public transit system offers great alternatives for the work commute or an option to hopping in your car for short trips. Serving St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Clair County, Ill., Metro Transit allows riders to walk to a nearby stop, or park and take a train or bus, or a combination of the two, to get where they are going – safely, comfortably and conveniently. Those who live in Madison County, Ill., will find Madison County Transit to be another great alternative.  
  • Ridesharing – With transportation-related emissions being one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, RideFinders offers a path to reduce those emissions by providing a free carpool and vanpool ride matching service for commuters to help improve the overall quality of the air. By sharing a ride instead of driving alone, commuters can save money and enjoy a more relaxing trip. Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft match drivers of private vehicles to those seeking transportation and are another great option to eliminate the use of multiple vehicles. Earlier this summer, Metro Transit also launched a new, affordable shared-ride service called Via Metro STL, which allows passengers heading in the same direction to hail a vehicle directly from their smartphones using the Via app to get around parts of North and South St. Louis County.

  • Walk or Bike – Walking and biking are excellent ways to burn calories instead of burning gas! Not only do they serve as eco-friendly ways to run errands and get around town when weather conditions are favorable, but experts also note that if just 1% of those who drive chose to walk or bike regularly instead, automobile emissions would fall 2-4%.

  • Telecommute – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than a third of U.S. households reported working from home more frequently than before the onset of the pandemic. The power of telecommuting to reduce auto emissions was clear across the country and around the world as stay-at-home orders last year led to much lighter traffic and cleaner air in countless locationsWith the region being opened back up for business and traffic ramping up, so does the potential for increased emissions that contribute to ozone formation. For those that can work from home, continuing to telecommute at least occasionally is encouraged.  

You can do your share for cleaner air by taking the pledge to be car free on September 22 and beyond to help St. Louisans breathe easier. For a host of additional tips on how to achieve cleaner air all year long, visit our  website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.  

Back to School with Sustainability on the Brain

As summer winds down with area students already settled back in the classroom, cooler nights and more pleasant daytime temperatures will soon make their way to the region, meaning it’s less likely that the quality of the air we breathe will be top of mind. But given that St. Louis is ranked as one of the top cities in the nation for ozone and particle pollution, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that there are various things we can be doing during the school year to help keep the region’s air clean all year-round.

The good news is all of us can take voluntary steps to reduce emissions by incorporating sustainable practices into our daily lives, and there are many actions parents and kids and college students can consider as part of their back-to-school routines to keep our air quality in healthy ranges:

  • Walk, bike or take public transit – When weather conditions are favorable, kids that live close to school can replace car trips with walking or bicycling to help reduce air pollution. Since fewer vehicles on the roads result in less pollution in the air, Metro is another great option for those who aren’t within walking distance to school. The region’s public transit system is designed so riders can walk to a nearby stop, or park and take a train or bus, or a combination of the two, to get where they’re going – safely, comfortably and conveniently. Metro also helps area students navigate to and from class with ease, with several local colleges and universities offering a customized Metro University Pass (U-Pass) that grants students and faculty unlimited use of the transit system at a reduced rate.
  • Nix bottled water – Did you know that up to 80 percent of single-use water bottles in the United States never get recycled? Not only does the production of plastic water bottles contribute significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, their litter lingers for years on end. Consider purchasing a reusable water bottle that can be filled up at any water fountain instead of throwing away a new one each time to cut down on unnecessary waste and help improve air quality.
  • Limit waste at lunch – When packing a lunch for school, opt for reusable sandwich containers rather than plastic zip-top baggies and consider investing in an eco-friendly, insulated lunch box instead of brown bags that get thrown in the trash anyways. Packing appropriately-sized lunch portions also helps to minimize food waste that typically ends up in a landfill where it rots and produces harmful greenhouse gases.
  • Go paperless when possible – Because we live in a digital world, there are many places we can opt out of using paper. Taking notes electronically during class helps to eliminate paper waste, which ultimately saves money and a substantial amount of energy that leads to cleaner air. Printing double-sided and using an online calendar or scheduler to keep assignments organized are also great ways to reduce paper consumption.

The Clean Air Partnership is proud to play a role in raising awareness about all the ways we can reduce environmental impact. To access a wealth of air quality information and tips designed to help area residents do their share for cleaner air, parents and students are encouraged to visit the tips section of our website at cleanair-stlouis.com, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

Spotlight On: The Village of Godfrey

Even though summer is winding down, the St. Louis metropolitan area continues to experience sizzling summer temperatures, meaning the importance of keeping the region’s air clean remains high. Thanks to various local organizations and municipalities that have worked hard to better the environment and create a sustainable way of life, the Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the Village of Godfrey for prioritizing environmentally conscious purchases and practices that help to enhance the community and benefit the region’s air quality.

Founded in 1991, the Village of Godfrey is one of Illinois’ newest municipalities and has been rapidly developing in recent years. Utilizing the flourishing area in ways that focus on sustainability is a top priority for both the leaders and residents of Godfrey. In 2020, the Village of Godfrey earned the esteemed Award of Achievement for their work in the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge, a program of the Missouri Botanical Garden. As a returning Challenge participant, Godfrey and eight other local Green Cities worked with a menu of fundamental sustainability policy and action options geared toward greening municipal business operations, including various resources to educate and engage residents.

Among their eco-friendly innovations to receive recognition in the Challenge was the recent move toward more responsible management of the village’s waste and emissions. In partnership with Madison County, the Village of Godfrey planned and executed an E-cycle event that granted residents the opportunity to recycle their electronic products no longer in use. When these electronics are not recycled, they release harmful chemicals into the environment that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), account for approximately 70% of all toxic waste and represent 2% of the nation’s trash in landfills. Furthermore, Village Hall significantly reduced its paper waste by utilizing the electronic meeting management software “Board Docs” for paperless notes.

Transitioning to the use of renewable energy wherever possible is another way the community vows to reduce their overall environmental footprint. As a municipal sponsor of the Grow Solar Metro East program, the Village of Godfrey’s Climate Protection and Energy Efficiency Committee provides financial assistance in order to ensure significant discounts that make installing solar simple and more affordable for local property owners. During the 2020 Challenge, new solar panels were installed at Glazebrook Park, in addition to a solar ordinance being passed in the village to serve as a guide for the local government to support and encourage the development of solar energy systems. To further conserve energy, the village also updated its stormwater ordinance to include green infrastructure solutions and implemented zone scheduling street department projects to save on fuel and cut down on harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by the Village of Godfrey and how your municipality can get involved in the Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Metro Transit Championing Cleaner Air in the St. Louis Region with New Electric Bus Fleet

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to serve a community where several local organizations are playing a crucial role in helping to provide options for area residents to take action to reduce emissions and improve air quality in the region. One that’s really proving to be a champion for clean air is Metro Transit – the St. Louis metropolitan region’s primary public transportation system – which recently launched one of the largest initial electric bus fleet deployments in the nation.

With a shared commitment to enhance the sustainability of the bi-state St. Louis region, representatives from Bi-State Development, Metro Transit and several partners and regional stakeholders recently gathered for the official launch of the first 18 electric battery-powered buses into service on the MetroBus system, which covers an area of about 550 square miles. The deployment was made possible by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Metro’s collaboration with the Center for Transportation and the Environment, Ameren Missouri, GILLIG, New Flyer and Metro’s key transit partners – the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County in Missouri and St. Clair County in Illinois. Another six new buses will join the MetroBus battery electric fleet by the end of this year to provide additional economically and environmentally sustainable mobility options, further enhancing the overall transit experience for Metro riders.

The (14) 60-foot battery electric buses manufactured by New Flyer America will operate exclusively on the #70 Grand route, which is Metro’s busiest route and carries about 10 percent of its passengers on a daily basis. The (4) 40-foot buses made by GILLIG will provide service on a variety of MetroBus routes in the City of St. Louis and in St. Louis County.

Not only do electric buses provide financial advantages by reducing fuel and maintenance costs, but they also deliver numerous environmental benefits to the communities they serve. Altogether, Metro Transit estimates the new electric buses will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 to 160 tons per year. Eliminating diesel exhaust emissions, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and ultimately make it harder for individuals to breathe is an important investment for long-term lung health in the St. Louis region and a great step in the right direction for cleaner air!

The 60-foot battery electric buses will be charged while in service at the North Broadway-Taylor Transit Center in St. Louis, located at the northernmost end of the #70 Grand MetroBus route, and all buses will be charged every night at the Brentwood MetroBus facility in Brentwood. Ameren Missouri built a new substation next to the Brentwood MetroBus facility to serve the growing electric needs of Metro Transit and the surrounding communities. The $11.3 million investment upgrades the power supply to triple capacity and modernizes the energy system for the area.

For more information about Metro Transit’s journey to zero-emission mobility and its Electric Bus program, visit www.metrostlouis.org/electric-buses. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Particle Pollution and Your Health

While cities all across the nation have made significant strides in cleaning up harmful air pollution over the last several decades, many areas in the United States – including the St. Louis metropolitan region – produce high enough concentrations of particulate matter that it can trigger illness, hospitalization and even premature death. With each new edition of the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report, the threat of deadly particle pollution continues to worsen and is responsible for upwards of 48,000 premature deaths in the U.S. every year.

In the three years covered by the latest report (2017-2019), close to 54.4 million people live in the 88 counties that experienced unhealthy spikes in particulate matter air pollution, which represents a million more people than in last year’s “State of the Air” and higher numbers than in any of the last five reports. Likewise, more than 20.9 million people – approximately 6.4% of the nation – live in one of the 17 counties where year-round particle pollution levels are worse than the national air quality limit. Among those areas that received a failing grade is St. Louis, which ranked in a four-way tie for 20th most-polluted U.S. cities by year-round particle pollution.

Particle pollution – also known as particulate matter – refers to a mixture of tiny bits of solids and liquids in the air we breathe. This comes from countless sources such as factories, power plants, diesel and gasoline-powered motor vehicles, and equipment that either directly emit fine particles or generate the precursors such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) that can form into fine particles in the atmosphere. Though low average daily levels of fine particles can be deadly in some cases, decades of research have firmly established that long-term exposure to particulate matter was associated with elevated risks of death from cardiovascular and respiratory causes, including heart disease, stroke, influenza and pneumonia. Research has also linked year-round exposure to particle pollution to a wide array of serious health effects at every stage of life, from conception through old age.

The good news is, however; cleaning up particle pollution does make a difference, and studies have shown a consistent relationship between decreased particle pollution levels in communities and improved respiratory health in both children and adults. Fortunately, the St. Louis region offers plenty of resources to help with this effort to improve the quality of the air we breathe and protect lung health.

With a higher potential for poor air quality conditions during the remaining weeks of summer, the Clean Air Partnership continues to release color-coded, daily air quality forecasts to keep residents informed about air pollution levels in the region and how those levels can affect their health. Signing up to receive air quality forecasts via email at www.cleanair-stlouis.com helps to ensure area residents know what the next day’s air quality is forecast to be and if they should alter their outdoor activities to minimize exposure to polluted air, particularly on orange or red “ozone action days.” Since transportation-related emissions also remain one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips, telecommuting, avoiding vehicle idling, as well as carpooling and taking advantage of the region’s public transit system can also greatly impact the amount of ozone-forming emissions on any given day.

The more you know about the air you breathe, the bigger the difference you can make to help people across the St. Louis region breathe easier. To learn more about health effects of exposure to particle pollution and actions you can take to reduce emissions, visit our website at www.cleanair-stlouis.com, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

Spotlight On: COCA

As the fourth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the country, COCA is a national leader in innovative arts education that nurtures artistic and creative potential in students through dance, vocal music, theatre, art and design and beyond. COCA pairs these core values with an extraordinary devotion to going green in order to build a stronger, healthier St. Louis community.

A returning participant in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, COCA earned the esteemed title of Challenge Champion for their ongoing commitment to implement environmentally friendly measures into everyday operational practices. During the 2020 Challenge, COCA elected to develop and report on their Champion Innovation Project – Sustainable Features of COCA’s New Ferring Wing – that focuses on clear sustainability goals enforced in the construction of their new space that houses the 450-seat Catherine B. Berges Theater, Staenberg Performance Lab, two new dance studios, Dierbergs Kitchen at COCA and more.

With a commitment to making St. Louis a better place to live, work and play, COCA worked closely with the project design and construction teams to develop a responsible design for a sustainable building of lasting quality to be enjoyed for generations to come. The new building includes several eco-friendly features, such as 100% LED lights, two new high-efficiency Daikin air handling units, three new water bottle filling stations to help reduce the use of disposable cups and plastic bottles, all new restroom faucets equipped with automatic sensors to control water usage, and a new landscape design featuring all native plant life. Moreover, a green roof was incorporated at the juncture between the two wings of the facility to provide additional green space to the property and to support local pollinators.

To further reduce environmental impact, COCA’s new dance studios were designed to take in as much natural light as possible and were equipped with daylight sensors to help reduce energy use during daytime hours. Last but not least, all studios were equipped with A/V and streaming capabilities to allow for at-home arts instruction. Ultimately, this will help reduce the need for transportation and cut down on carbon emissions, which also benefits the region’s air quality!

COCA prioritizes ecological stewardship in their daily procedures and has taken several steps to preserve energy, recycle, reduce waste and ‘go green’ in all possible avenues. By participating in single-stream recycling, COCA strives to maintain a clean, sustainable and environmentally conscious facility. COCA also remains dedicated to purchasing eco-friendly office cleaning supplies and electronics that meet ENERGY STAR specifications for optimal energy efficiency.

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the efforts of organizations like COCA that continue to do their share for cleaner air by channeling their time and energy towards practicing sustainability. For additional information on how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to their weekly E-Newsletter or visit www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

 

Tackling Rising Summer Temps to Help St. Louisans Breathe Easier

Climate change is driving warmer temperatures, making ozone pollution more likely to form and harder to clean up, according to the findings of the latest “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association. Although the three years covered in the latest report (2017-2019) were somewhat cooler than 2016 – which remains the hottest year on record – they still rank among the six hottest years on record globally, showing the strong impact of warmer temperatures on air quality.

With June having seen some of the hottest days in years in the St. Louis region and the prime of summer approaching – where warmer weather and stagnant air create conditions that make ozone more likely to form – the importance of keeping the region’s air clean is at an all-time high. Ozone is created when heat and sunlight react with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from motor vehicles, industrial facilities, gasoline vapors, chemical solvents and dozens of other sources. Ozone gas is a powerful lung irritant that reacts with the delicate lining of the airways once inhaled, causing inflammation and other damage that can impact multiple body systems. When ozone levels are high, many people experience breathing problems such as chest tightness, coughing and shortness of breath, often within hours of exposure. Even healthy young adults may experience respiratory symptoms and decreased lung function.

While the “State of the Air” report largely focuses on the health harms linked to increases in ozone and particle pollution, heat itself is another significant risk factor that adds to the climate vulnerability of some of the same populations who face increased risk from air pollution. Children are especially vulnerable to extreme heat, as they spend more time playing outside and participating in vigorous activity than the average adult. Among older adults, increased heat and exposure to air pollution increases the risk of premature deaths, resulting in more emergency room visits and hospital admissions, especially for individuals who spend more time outdoors. Heat waves also pose a significant threat for increased risk of illness and death in people living with chronic lung disease.

As one of the top-ranked areas in the nation for ozone and particle pollution, the St. Louis region is no stranger to poor air quality conditions during summertime. However, there are plenty of resources available to help area residents take voluntary steps that can improve the quality of the air we breathe. The Clean Air Partnership releases color-coded, daily air quality forecasts to keep residents informed about ozone pollution levels in the region and how those levels can affect their health. Signing up to receive air quality forecasts via email at www.cleanair-stlouis.com helps to ensure residents know what the next day’s air quality is forecast to be and if they should alter their outdoor activities to minimize exposure to polluted air, particularly on orange or red “ozone action days.” Moreover, actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips, telecommuting, avoiding vehicle idling, carpooling and taking transit can also greatly impact the amount of ozone-forming emissions generated on any given day.

For more information and a host of additional tips to beat the summer heat to help clear the air and protect human health, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

Celebrate Sustainably This Independence Day

While the pandemic resulted in many Fourth of July events in 2020 being canceled or modified, annual celebrations will return in full force this year with in-person fireworks displays, parades and more. Not only is the Fourth of July one of the biggest holidays of the year, but between the single-use plastics and traffic jams, it’s also a day with a major negative impact on the environment.

Commemorating Independence Day in an eco-friendly manner is an ideal way to show your patriotism by taking steps to protect the future of this great nation we call home. With that in mind, here are a few tips to consider for reducing your carbon footprint this weekend to help improve the region’s air quality:

  • Green Your Travels – If you’re traveling over the holiday weekend, be conscious of how many extra items overall you’re packing to help lighten the load. The more weight trains, planes and automobiles have to carry, the more fuel they use, and the more harmful greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. Traveling by bus or train to your destination are the greenest options, but if you must fly, check to see if you can get an affordable, nonstop flight to help clear the air by cutting back on carbon emissions that come from takeoff and landing. If you are traveling by your own personal vehicle, perform routine maintenance steps ahead of time and follow the speed limit to help further reduce emissions and fuel consumption.
  • Opt for a Gas Grill – Breaking out the grill for a Fourth of July cookout is a fun and leisurely way to get outdoors and spend time with friends and family but poses a unique set of environmental challenges. From an air pollution standpoint, natural gas and propane grills burn the cleanest in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter. They also leave behind less waste than charcoal or wood grills. If you must use a charcoal grill, avoid petroleum-based lighter fluids and self-lighting charcoal that release petrochemicals into the atmosphere, and opt for an electric charcoal starter instead.
  • Freedom from Disposable Partyware – When shopping for supplies for your backyard barbeque, look for recyclable or compostable plates, cups and utensils rather than the kind that end up in the trash. Or, instead of buying tableware for one-time use, opt for your favorite set of dishes for the cookout this year that will save you money in the long run and help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. While you’ll probably still end up with items to recycle afterwards, you can do your part to keep waste at a minimum by putting out labeled bins for recycling and composting food scraps and other biodegradable items, too.
  • Choose Greener Fireworks – According to research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. typically experiences the highest yearly amount of particulate matter air pollution on the Fourth of July due to fireworks. If you plan to host your own backyard show, enjoy a greener display by looking for eco-friendly, nitrogen-rich fireworks that produce less environment-harming smoke, and make sure to clean up all the debris afterwards. Otherwise, take your party to see the local fireworks display rather than shooting off your own.

Take action for cleaner air by throwing a little green into the mix of red, white and blue this Independence Day and continue to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle to help people all across St. Louis breathe easier every day, not just on special occasions. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

  

Spotlight On: The City of Collinsville

As a returning participant of the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge in 2020, the City of Collinsville’s outstanding efforts to be a green-conscious municipality is a testament to their forward-thinking approach and strong desire to improve the quality of life for present and future residents by considering the long-term significance of everyday decisions.

During the 2020 Challenge, Collinsville adopted its first Sustainability Plan to meet the community’s current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. Designed to make the city more operational and energy efficient, this noteworthy plan was divided into five focus areas: Transportation; Buildings, Grounds, and Lighting; Environmental Management; Land Use and Planning; and Community Development, Engagement, and Education. The city received public input and support from two open houses – in addition to an online survey – and has also ensured the relevance of the plan for years to come. The Sustainability Plan will be reviewed annually by city staff and the Cool Cities Committee to evaluate which policies have not been started, those that are in progress, are fully implemented and consideration to add or modify policies based on scientific research and/or emerging technologies.

Among the other impressive innovations put forth by the city during the 2020 Challenge to keep up with its sustainability goals was a “Goatscaping” program piloted by Willoughby Farm, which encompasses over 30 acres of wildlife preserve that offers opportunities for education and recreation in the heart of Collinsville. Through the “Goatscaping” program, the farm leases goats to privately owned residential properties within the city as an environmentally friendly way to clear unwanted weeds and invasive plants. Willoughby Farm plans to continue this program moving forward and further expand it this year. Moreover, the city partnered with Land of Goshen Community Market’s Beet Box, a mobile farmer’s market designed to increase access to fresh local produce and more comprehensive nutrition education for underserved residents. Every Monday from July to October, the city reserves space for the Beet Box in Woodland Park, directly across the street from Collinsville’s largest public housing development. Since sourcing food locally helps to cut down on emissions produced by large transport trucks, the less produce and supplies have to travel means that less waste is produced, resulting in a smaller environmental impact overall.

To further reduce environmental impact, the city discontinued spraying for mosquitoes last year. Those efforts in prior years ultimately had little impact on mosquito control, caused adverse effects on the environment and were largely considered a nuisance by residents. As a result of discontinuing the program, the decreased labor hours and supplies are an added bonus for air quality and will also yield operational savings, too!

For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by the City of Collinsville and how your organization or municipality can get involved in the Challenge, subscribe to the weekly E-Newsletter or visit www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Take Action for Cleaner Air This Summer to Maintain Healthy Lungs as COVID-19 Lingers

While the St. Louis region and cities nationwide are experiencing a decline in the number of overall COVID-19 cases, the staggering toll of the pandemic has driven home to the world the importance of healthy lungs. New research shows that exposure to elevated levels of air pollution is linked to worse health outcomes from COVID-19; however, the health burden of air pollution is not evenly shared as certain populations face a greater risk of illness or even death from breathing unhealthy air.

Several key factors can affect an individual’s level of risk – including where someone lives, where they go to school and where they work – which all greatly impact the amount of air pollution a person is exposed to. Likewise, children, older adults and people with chronic lung or heart conditions may be physically more susceptible to the health impacts of air pollution.

According to the American Lung Association’s latest “State of the Air” report, close to 20.7 million people – or 6.3% of Americans – live in the 13 U.S. counties that failed all three tests for ozone and particle pollution levels. Report findings also reveal that, of those 20.7 million individuals, 14 million are people of color. Communities of color have been hit especially hard by COVID-19 and are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air, with sources of pollution like power plants, industrial facilities, landfills and highways being deliberately placed in economically disadvantaged communities of color. In general, living in poverty increases the likelihood of being in close proximity to sources of pollution, and thus being more susceptible to respiratory infections.

The uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, including the thousands of survivors who potentially may never regain their full health, raises the danger of a sharp and sudden rise in the number of people living with underlying conditions that put them at increased risk of health harm from air pollution. During the coming summer months when weather conditions create a risk for higher ozone pollution levels and ozone-related health concerns, it is especially important for these individuals and the rest of the population to prioritize lung health by minimizing exposure to air pollution when possible and taking action to reduce harmful emissions that contribute to the problem.

For starters, the Clean Air Partnership releases daily air quality forecasts to let residents know what the air quality is forecast to be during the prime of summer. Signing up to receive the color-coded forecast via email at www.cleanair-stlouis.com helps to ensure St. Louisans know what the next day’s air quality is forecast to be and if they should take precaution by altering their outdoor activities to avoid being exposed to polluted air. Given that transportation-related emissions have always been one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, the Partnership encourages area residents to do their share for cleaner air by telecommuting, choosing not to idle your vehicles, avoiding topping off your gas tank and combining errands into a single trip. Carpooling, ridesharing and taking advantage of the region’s public transit system as people continue transitioning back to the office can also make a big difference in the amount of ozone-forming emissions generated on any given day and improve lung health overall.

For more information and a host of additional tips to help people all across the region breathe easier this summer, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.