Friday, May 12, 2017

ALERT: Unhealthy Smog Making Breathing Difficult for Floridians

For the first time in years, many Floridians are suffering from high levels of unhealthy smog. 

Orlando is still suffering from its worst smog in years. 
This week, smog levels have spiked in cities like Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. That's hazardous for people with asthma, heart disease and COPD, reaching levels unhealthy for everyone. The main source, emissions from our cars, trucks and buses' tailpipes, has been exacerbated recently by additional nitrogen oxide from fires. Today, as smog levels begin to decline in the Tampa Bay area, cities like Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando are still suffering from dangerously high levels that mean that exercise outdoors in the late afternoon is off limits for sensitive people, and not a good idea for anyone.

Most Floridians have had a rough time breathing this week. 
Where does smog come from? Our tailpipes' nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions combine with Florida sunshine throughout the day to convert to ozone. Power plants burning coal and, to a lesser degree, natural gas, also contribute, but not at levels as significant as our own cars' tailpipes. Smog levels increase throughout the afternoon, peaking as people get off work and go walk the dog or jog, and then rapidly decreasing after sunset. Summer rains help wash nitrogen out the air (and into lakes and rivers!), but in May, with our seasonal dry conditions, smog builds up. Combine that with a stagnant high pressure system and wildfires that contribute more nitrogen along with particulate, and you have what Hillsborough County EPC Air Quality staff Alain Watson today described to us as a "perfect storm" for unhealthy smog.
Florida's had several days in both the Orange and Red Alert levels this week. 

You can't see and smell smog like you can the particulate-laden smoke from fires, so being aware of the risk is important, especially those whose asthma or other conditions make them more sensitive. Media in central and south Florida have been busy alerting the community this week. The Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission's Air Quality office sends alerts upon request. You can get on EPC's list by calling 813-627-2600, ext. 1298.

What can you do to make the air healthier for everyone to breathe? Maybe you can't fight forest fires like Smokey the Bear, but you can fight smog at its main source.

This weekend, take Mom for a test drive in an Electric Vehicle, like a Nissan Leaf or Tesla, or a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle like a Chevy Volt that only uses gas on trips over 50 miles. Great deals are abundant on both new and used EVs and PHEVs that'll save you big bucks on fuel and maintenance, while eliminating your own personal smog contribution. As utilities, business and homeowners continue to add more solar power, the net amount of air pollution your EV causes from generation of electricity it runs on, already much lower than even a Prius, will continue to decline over the life of the vehicle, making your EV cleaner each year, while any car that runs on gas or diesel will remain just as dirty a source of smog as it is today.

Consider joining Sierra Club staff and other members who've made the switch to a clean, quiet electric vehicle, and next weekend, Saturday May 20, drive your new EV to your local beach to Join Hands Across the Sand and say No to new offshore seismic testing and oil drilling for new sources of oil that are now completely unnecessary. Tell Donald Trump: "no thanks, we don't need any new oil rigs - we're trying to quit!"

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601