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Spare the Air Season Begins

Ready for a long season of thick, heavy, smog?

As the warm weather arrives, so to do high levels of toxic ozone pollution.

To kick off this year’s Spare the Air season, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is celebrating Clean Air Week by encouraging locals to reduce their driving. The largest source of smog in the Bay Area is tailpipe exhaust.

“Reducing the number of cars on our roads remains the biggest air quality challenge we face in the Bay Area,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. “We are urging residents to re-think their commute and leave their car at home at least twice a week - take transit, work from home, carpool or bike to work instead of driving alone.”

A record number of alerts banning wood fires were issued this past winter during the Spare the Air season that ended Feb. 29. The district, which issues alerts when air pollution levels are expected to exceed safe limits, issued 15 alerts this winter. Officials reported 10 days when pollution levels exceeded the national air quality and another nine days that came close.

The high level of alerts, the highest in five years, was due to a winter of unusually dry, stagnant weather, district officials said.

When Spare the Air alerts are issued, it means ozone (smog) pollution is forecast to reach toxic levels. Smog is known to cause throat irritation, congestion, chest pain, trigger asthma, inflame lung lining and exacerbate the symptoms of bronchitis and emphysema, according to a BAAQMD announcement Wednesday.

Daily air forecasts are available by signing up for email AirAlerts here, by calling 1-800-HELPAIR or by downloading the Spare the Air iPhone/Android app.

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