Air Quality Program Announces Start of Ozone Season

Albuquerque, NM (KKOB) –The City of Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Program, administered by the City’s Environmental Health Department, announced the start of ozone season today, with funding for the program from the Environmental Protection Agency. Ozone levels are typically highest during the afternoon hours of the summer months, when the influence of direct sunlight is the greatest. These highest levels occur during what is known as the “ozone season,” which extends from May through September in the Metro area.

“Ozone levels are made worse by the rising temperatures of climate change, and we’re taking action in Albuquerque to protect public health and keep our city healthier for all of our residents,” said Mayor Tim Keller.

There are many actions residents can take to protect their health on days when pollution levels may be high. On high ozone days the Program recommends the following:

  • Conserve electricity and set your air conditioner at a higher temperature;
  • Choose a cleaner commute—share a ride to work or use public transportation. Bicycle or walk to errands when possible;
  • Refuel cars and trucks after dusk;
  • Combine errands and reduce trips;
  • Limit engine idling; and
  • Use household, workshop, and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or try to delay using them when poor air quality is forecast.

“Our program is committed to protecting public health and our environment,” said Environmental Health Deputy Director Mara Elana Burstein. “Through EPA grants, we continue to make significant progress in reducing pollution concentrations and enhancing air quality in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.”

Ground-Level Ozone (O3) is an invisible pollutant that threatens local air quality. Ozone has two important properties of interest to human health. First, it absorbs UV light, reducing human exposure to harmful UV radiation that causes skin cancer and cataracts. Second, when inhaled, ozone reacts chemically with many biological molecules in the respiratory tract, leading to a number of adverse health effects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $219,021 to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Program to monitor ambient air quality for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). The funds will support the Program’s work to improve air quality in the area and remain in attainment with the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone. The Program’s Ozone Reduction Initiative includes:

  • Hiring new staff to support this initiative;
  • Participating in EPA’s voluntary Ozone Advance Program;
  • Updating the vehicle emissions testing program;
  • Developing a new diesel vehicle emissions testing program;
  • Supporting the State’s efforts to reduce ozone precursor emissions from the oil and gas industry;
  • Working jointly with the State to develop clean car standards; and
  • Educating the public on the dangers of ground-level ozone as well as what you can do to help.

Residents can opt-in to receive real-time emergency health text alerts from the Environmental Health Department on high ozone days. Community members can text “ABQHEALTH” to the number 226787 to opt into the English language list, or “ABQSALUD” to opt into the Spanish language list from any mobile phone. You will immediately receive a welcome message as well as instructions to Start or Stop messages at any time.

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