Reducing Idling Could Lead to Fewer Air Quality Alerts

So far this year, there have been ten days when air quality is forecasted to be bad in the Louisville area, and as the summer wears on there will be many more. The weather plays a big part in these days of unhealthy air, and pollution from industries contributes, too. But individual actions can also affect the air.

A number of factors have to fall into place for Louisville to have an air quality alert day. There has to be pollution—there’s benzene from vehicle exhaust, sulfur dioxide from power plants and other stuff—that all mixes together. Then the weather has to be right: a hot, stagnant day that cooks the pollution and creates unhealthy levels of ozone.

Air Pollution Control District spokesman Tom Nord says the city has programs to limit all sources of pollution. But lately, there are new programs to try to convince individuals to reduce their role in poor air quality.

“If we can reduce the human contribution side of it, then it doesn’t really matter how hot it gets,” he said. “If it doesn’t have anything to cook, if you take one of the ingredients out, then you should see less air quality alert days. That’s our goal.”

One of the district’s major pushes is to reduce idling in the area. Vehicles contribute a lot of air pollution, and the Idle Free Louisville campaign encourages people to turn their cars off when they aren’t driving.

“I think as the air has gotten cleaner, you don’t see big, belching fumes coming out of tailpipes anymore,” Nord said. “Cars don’t look that way anymore. I think a lot of people, it never occurred to them that when you’re sitting in the car idling while you’re waiting to pick someone up at the grocery, or when you’re idling in line, waiting to pick your kids up at school, you’re still pumping a lot of pollution into the air.”

The Air Pollution Control District recommends turning off cars when they’ll be sitting for more than 10 seconds. Contrary to popular belief, it actually wastes more gas to keep the engine running than turning the engine off and back on.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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