Jefferson County, Colo. — Each summer, Jefferson County, along with the entire Denver Metropolitan Area, faces challenges when it comes to clean, healthy and safe air. During this time of year, when the climate is hot and dry, air quality can worsen and make normal, day-to-day activities outdoors riskier. That’s why Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) reminds residents of some simple steps they can take to protect themselves from poor air quality, as well as what they can do to help.
One of the most prevalent causes of poor air quality in Colorado is ground-level ozone. This air pollutant is formed when source emissions such as those from vehicles, industry, certain household products, and lawn and garden equipment combine with sunlight on hot, dry and stagnant summer days. Another major concern in Colorado is smoke from wildfires, which can irritate the respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.
While poor air quality is unsafe for everyone, there are several groups of people who are at higher risk of more severe health concerns, including people with heart or lung diseases (including asthma), older adults, children and infants. It is also well documented that residents in disproportionately impacted communities feel these effects to a higher degree.
“Prolonged exposure to poor air quality can cause significant health concerns, both in the short- and long-term,” said Trenton Mitchell, Senior Environmental Health Specialist at JCPH. “While we all love spending time outside during the summer here in Jeffco, it’s vital to make sure you do so as safely as possible.”
When air quality is poor, JCPH encourages residents to take the following steps to protect their health:
- Spend more time indoors, where wildfire smoke and ozone levels are lower.
- Exercise indoors. If you must exercise outdoors, choose easier activities like walking instead of running so you don’t breathe as hard.
- Plan outdoor activities at times when ozone levels are lower, which is usually in the morning and evening.
“Unfortunately, some of the concerns we see related to air quality here in the Metro area are negatively influenced by our climate and geography — making our home prone to trapped pollutants like ozone and wildfire smoke,” Mitchell said. “However, there are still effective ways we can all contribute to keeping our air clean, safe and healthy to breathe. Even small steps can make a big difference.”
In addition, there are some simple steps everyone can take to improve air quality during the summer months — and all year long:
- Skip two car trips each week and replace them with other ways to get around, like walking, riding a bike or using an e-scooter.
- If you have to drive, combine car trips. For example, pick one day each week to run errands. You can also carpool with others to reduce cars on the road.
- Telework when possible. Working from home can be a great way to reduce car trips and air pollution.
- Avoid idling. When you are stopped for more than 60 seconds, turn your engine off to prevent pollution and save on gas.
- Mow your lawn after 5 p.m. to prevent ground-level ozone.
- Refuel your car after 5 p.m. and “stop at the click” to prevent gasoline vapors from turning into air pollution.
- Order online and bundle deliveries for after 5 p.m. to reduce car trips.
To stay informed on the air quality near you, JCPH offers an air quality alert system. Jeffco residents can sign-up to receive air quality alerts from JCPH via text or email. On the NotifyMe webpage, scroll down to “Alert Center.” Select “Air Quality Alerts from Public Health” and enter your phone number and/or email address. Residents can also stay up-to-date on air quality concerns in the area by visiting the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website and the Regional Air Quality Council website.
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.