Do Your Part For Clean Air!

On May 1, 2011, the City of Alexandria and other municipalities began their “Air Quality Action Days” program to increase awareness about the dangers of ground-level ozone, or smog and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays; however, it is considered a harmful air pollutant when present at ground level. Ground-level ozone is formed when pollution reacts with sunlight. PM2.5 is tiny drops of liquid or small particles of dust, metals and other materials that remain suspended in the air. Some particles are emitted directly, while others are formed in the atmosphere when pollutants react.

Prolonged exposure to ozone and PM2.5 can cause inflammation and irritation of the respiratory tract, lower resistance to colds and pneumonia, damage lung tissue and intensify heart and lung disease. The most susceptible are children, seniors, and individuals with respiratory ailments; however individuals of any age can be affected.

From May through September, air quality is forecasted for the following day on a region wide basis and is coded as purple, red, orange, yellow or green – purple and red being most unhealthy. Watch for “Air Quality Action Days” notifications on local TV news stations, weather forecasts, or sign up with Clean Air Partners to receive alerts via email.  You may also visit Virginia Department of Environmental Quality at to obtain real time ozone levels, courtesy of the City’s Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station.

Although helpful every day, when a Code Orange or Red day is forecasted, take the following voluntary actions to improve the region’s and Alexandria’s air quality:

  • Instead of driving, bike, use the train, or bus companies in the Northern Virginia region
  • Avoid mowing lawns with gas-powered mowers
  • Put off any painting until later
  • Don’t use aerosol products
  • Refuel cars after 7:00 pm
  • Spread the WORD!

The City is hopeful that you will join us in the effort to reduce the amount of pollutants entering our environment by DOING YOUR SHARE FOR CLEAN AIR! Please feel free to contact Erica Bannerman with the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) at or 703-746-4067 if you have questions about the Air Quality Action Days program.

Heather Schaefer is the Founder and Executive Director of Go Green! Alexandria, dedicated to the environmental education and outreach. Find out more at


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