New air-quality monitors raise pollution awareness
The first week of May was recognized as Air Quality Awareness Week in Cleveland Heights. Each weekday [the city's website] featured a short video with Mayor Seren, along with facts about different air quality topics. (All of the news releases are available at www.clevelandheights.gov/304/City-News-Update-Archive.)
It was announced on day five that Cleveland Heights has installed five air-quality monitors that display data in real time. Their locations can be viewed at https://map.purpleair.com/1/mAQI/a10/p604800/cC0#12.85/41.49909/-81.56037.
These sensors detect fine particulate matter, called PM 2.5, suspended in the air. This type of pollution comes from many sources, including vehicular traffic, industrial processes, furnaces, gas-powered lawn equipment, and wood burning. PM 2.5 contributes to climate change and is recognized as a health hazard linked to asthma, heart attacks, strokes and other conditions.
The air quality-sensing data allows residents to know when air quality is poor and adjust plans accordingly. Data collected over time will also contribute to the development of a Climate Action and Resiliency Plan for the city.
The Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, as [described] in an RFP released in March, will have both a municipal and a community component, with a focus on air quality and equity.
With all the focus on ambient air and traffic, we shouldn’t overlook significant sources of pollution that could be missed by the sensors. Here are some suggestions for mitigation that I hope will be considered in our Climate Action and Resiliency Plan:
Residential furnaces. Swapping out an old furnace can greatly reduce carbon emissions. Identifying homes with the oldest, least efficient furnaces for replacement via rebates or subsidies is one possibility.
Wood burning. Fire is a notable source of PM 2.5 emissions. Reductions in fireplace use, wood-fired cooking and recreational fires is an easy, no-cost way to reduce emissions across the community.
Gas-powered lawn equipment. These are highly polluting and put operators at the highest risk of health and hearing impacts. Restricting use, and/or replacing the most polluting equipment with electric equipment would benefit neighborhoods and workers. The California Air Resources Board asserts that operating a gas lawnmower for one hour emits as much pollution as driving a car 300 miles. Worse, operating a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour can emit as much pollution as driving a car 1,100 miles. Considering many lawncare service workers are seasonal, low-income employees unlikely to have employer-provided health insurance, this is an issue of equity.
Use of blue recycling carts. The city stated, as part of its Air Quality Awareness Week outreach, "Residents can help reduce idling time further AND help the city save money on fuel by waiting until their blue recycling carts are completely full before placing them on the curb for pick-up.”
I’m glad the city is moving forward on several initiatives, and keeping residents informed. Whether you completely agree or not, we can all play a small part in making a big difference.
Alice Jeresko is an environmental advocate who founded Quiet Clean Heights to help raise awareness of the health, hearing and environmental impacts of gas leaf blowers in residential neighborhoods.