If you’ve lived in Wichita long enough, you’ve probably experienced the burning of the Flint Hills. Whether you’ve actually seen the flames or just smelled the smoke, this is an annual event to help ranchers prepare for a new season. The burning helps promote growth of grasses needed for summer grazing.
While the Flint Hills burning is a necessary tradition for farmers and ranchers, the travelling smoke can cause issues for surrounding communities. Depending on the wind, when the smoke blows to Wichita it often triggers an ozone alert. This is because the air quality is considered unhealthy for children, senior citizens and those with respiratory diseases. But we shouldn’t just worry on the days when we can see the pollution, invisible emissions are also a concern during this time of year.
March 1st is the start of ozone season, a time when communities like Wichita pay extra close attention to the air quality. Between now and the end of October, ground level ozone increases because outside temperatures and sunlight heat emissions from things like vehicles and lawn equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is monitoring Wichita to make sure its meeting strict air quality standards.
The good news in all of this is that we as moms can do something about it! We can make small changes to help reduce ozone causing emissions, improving the air quality where we live. This is something I never thought about much, because unlike other countries with a visible haze in the air, we live in almost constant blue skies. But four years ago I started a job that focuses on the health effects of air pollution and have come to understand that even blue skies carry invisible emissions that can harm our health. And if we don’t take steps now towards change, things will get worse for our kiddos.
So what can we do? Here are some ideas to help reduce ozone causing air pollution. These things are helpful year round, but especially now through October during ozone season.
- Turn off your car in the school pick up line.
If you have to sit idle for more than one minute, it’s best to turn it off. You’ll create fewer emissions turning the car back on than sitting idle.
- Combine your Target and Costco runs into one trip
We know that walking everywhere isn’t possible, but driving less makes a big difference. Plan your errands based on what side of town you’ll be on, or what’s close to soccer practice. Car-pooling can also help reduce emissions and the number of cars on the road.
- Choose a healthier fuel
Almost all gasoline you use has 10% ethanol, a corn based alcohol added to gasoline to help reduce emissions. Several gas station in Wichita, Kechi, Haysville and Colwich are now selling fuel with blends of 15, 20, and 30% ethanol. The higher the ethanol blend, the fewer ozone causing tailpipe emissions. All cars 2001 and newer are approved for E15. If you have a Flex Fuel vehicle, you can can use any blend.
- Don’t squeeze every last drop into your gas tank
When you hear the click and the pump stops, fight the urge to keep going. When you add gas after it stops on its own, ozone forming emissions escape directly into the air you are breathing and you run the risk of spilling fuel.
For more ideas or to take a pledge to reduce ozone causing emissions, check out the City of Wichita’s Be Air Aware campaign.
Join the Be Air Aware Facebook group here!
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