AN EDITORIAL

Our local governments and schools should adopt a policy to follow on Air Quality Advisory Days

by David Miller,

Our region and especially the City of Loveland like to boast about our natural surroundings and the quality of life in our quaint river communities.

Now is the time for our schools and governments to adopt common sense practices and do our part to reduce the air pollution they produce on days when the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency issues an Air Quality Advisory.

The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency can assist with customizing a plan.

Let’s be leaders and innovators in protecting our environment!

 

Create an action plan for Air Quality Advisory days

When the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency issues an Air Quality Alert, key employees or administrators will immediately issue an internal communication, an “Air Alert Advisory” to all employees.  Here is where you can sign up for the advisories: EnviroFlash.

Outdoor Activities 

  • For schools, cancel athletic activities or move them indoors; including team practice, scheduled games, and recess. Because of their developing lungs and rate of breathing, active children are most at risk when air pollution rises to dangerous levels. Children’s lungs are permanently damaged by air pollution.
  • Schools and daycare centers have a special responsibility to protect children.* They must suspend strenuous outdoor activities, including notifying athletic leagues and conferences that they will not participate in scrimmages or games on Air Quality Alert days.
  • Suspend mowing.
  • No use of gasoline or diesel powered maintenance equipment.
  • Prohibit use of oil-based paints and stains.
  • Prohibit the idling of vehicles.
  • Employees must combine and eliminate unnecessary vehicle trips.
  • Issue an “Alert” to any contractors doing work such as contracted mowing or maintenance that they cannot do this type of work when the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency issues an Air Quality Advisory. Make it policy that any negotiated contracts contain Air Quality Alert provisions.

Offices

  • Turn off unnecessary lights in hallways.
  • Take advantage of natural light in offices and conference rooms.
  • Employees must turn off lights when leaving individual offices, conference rooms, break rooms and restrooms.
  • Employees must shut down computers, printers, and peripherals at the end of the work day.
  • Unplug unused “standby” electronics at the end of the work day, such as conference room televisions, DVD players, Smartboards, as well as break room/kitchen microwaves.
  • Encourage employees to carpool or take public transportation to work.
  • Allow employees to telecommute.
  • Consider installing motion sensor office lights.

Vehicle Policy

  • Refuel vehicles before 8 AM or after 8 PM when day time temperatures and air pollutant levels tend to be lower.
  • Employees must strategically plan routes to reduce driving time and lower fuel use.
  • Keep vehicles maintained with properly inflated tires and timely oil changes.

Outdoor Fires

  • Fire departments and park districts must postpone live fire training and controlled burns during an Air Quality Advisory.
  • Similarly, construction projects should not be permitted outdoor fire pits for workers’ warmth. They must be offered an alternative such as breaks from the cold, inside trailers.

What Else Should Be Done?

  • Encourage employees to carpool or take public transportation to work
  • Allow employees to telecommute
  • Consider installing motion sensor office lights
  • Educate employees about the Air Quality Index. Include articles in your employee newsletter, and post flyers at time clocks and break areas.
  • Install “Idle Free Zone” signs in public and employee parking areas to remind customers and staff to turn off their vehicles when parked. These signs are available at no cost from the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency.
  • Strive to make energy conservation a daily practice; it will also help reduce expenditures.

* “Children face special risks from air pollution because their lungs are growing and because they are so active.”

“Just like the arms and legs, the largest portion of a child’s lungs will grow long after he or she is born. Eighty percent of their tiny air sacs develop after birth. Those sacs, called the alveoli, are where the life-sustaining transfer of oxygen to the blood takes place. The lungs and their alveoli aren’t fully grown until children become adults.1 In addition, the body’s defenses that help adults fight off infections are still developing in young bodies.2 Children have more respiratory infections than adults, which also seems to increase their susceptibility to air pollution.”

Read more: Focusing on Children a resource guide from the American Lung Association.

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. When I was a child we spent much more time outside than children do these days. Yes we were working as much as playing. Yes almost everyone’s parents smoked. None of the cars or trucks had emissions controls. There were factories that you were working because of the smoke coming out of their smokestack. The air is so much cleaner now. The rivers are so much cleaner. I do not think any of your suggestions should be considered by any school or municipalities. Just because it’s cold, hot, raining, humid does not mean you stop; learn to persevere and you will excel. Hiding in the basement may be safe but it is not living.

  2. EDITOR’S NOTE: I do not know of school districts that have implemented this type of policy. I do think it is an opportunity for the Loveland District to stand out and lead. I also believe the Loveland District is by far the largest employer in the area. They could lead as both a government institution and as a workplace. This seems a natural fit to things the district has already done concerning the environment, especially the recycling programs to reduce waste, and energy efficiency programs already in place.

    Loveland High School was one of only two Ohio schools honored as a first-ever “2012 Green Ribbon School” by the U.S. Department of Education and the Environmental Education Council for Ohio, for creatively reducing environmental impact.

    Thank you for your question.

  3. Very interesting ideas! Do you know of other states/cities that have implemented similar policies – specifically related to schools/children’s activities – for days with severe air quality issues? There are many public health initiatives in the greater Cincinnati area, including focus on children and specifically asthma – I would imagine there would be opportunity for collaboration somewhere.

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