Air quality officials ask commuters to ditch cars, work remotely

The Bay Area’s agency overseeing regional air quality announced the beginning of Spare the Air smog season Monday, encouraging residents to reduce or eliminate their commutes using personal vehicles.

Vehicles are one of the region’s largest sources of smog and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Vehicle traffic has also returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to BAAQMD officials.

“We are asking Bay Area residents to consider commute alternatives like working remotely, taking transit and walking or biking to work instead of driving alone to reduce harmful air pollution and traffic gridlock,” BAAQMD CEO Jack Broadbent said.

The district issues Spare the Air alerts when it expects unhealthy levels of ozone or particulate pollution, which can aggravate and worsen the effects of asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, and long-term exposure to ozone can reduce lung function. Ozone pollution is particularly harmful for young children, seniors, and those with respiratory and heart conditions.

In 2020 the district issued a record number of alerts because of pollution from wildfires.

Residents are advised during Spare the Air alert periods to limit outdoor exercise in the late afternoons, when ozone pollution concentration is generally highest.

The district’s announcement Monday coincides with the beginning of Air Quality Awareness Week, a nationwide effort to encourage people to limit activities that increase air pollution.

People can find more information on Spare the Air alerts online or by calling 800-435-7247.

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