Inside Ozone Alerts

As our area grows, the wide, open fields and shady woods that covered the counties and even some parts of the city in long-time residents' memories are becoming a thing of the past. Bulldozers replace tractors as common sights along the road. It's the pavement, buildings, and the inevitable traffic that comes along with both that guarantees a rise in air pollution. The future looks hazy from here—as well as hot and humid.

The Not-so-Evil Triplets

Ozone is a kind of oxygen that has three oxygen atoms linked instead of just two. Ozone is not like its healthier relative, oxygen. These triplet oxygen molecules come mostly from burning fossil fuels such as gasoline, heating oil, and even charcoal from grilling foods. Burning releases that extra atom of oxygen that combines with normal oxygen to create the dreaded ozone molecule. More cars in an area ultimately mean more ozone, especially in the summer months. Over time, ozone at ground level can react with outdoor paint, rubber, and plastic, causing breakdowns in even these tough materials.

Office worker avoids sun while nappingPeople can tolerate a certain amount of ozone, such as what's created during lightning strikes, but local ozone build up can cause us serious damage. The eyes, mouth, nose, sinuses, and lungs get a burning sensation. There may also be shortness of breath and chest pains that can be deadly as well as an increased risk of developing asthma. Yes, there is a place in nature for large amounts of ozone—up in the stratosphere where it serves to protect the planet from the Sun's more harmful rays. Some scientists have concluded that the rise in skin cancer levels is at least in part because of loss of this protective ozone.

Beyond Red Alert

Add ozone and air pollution to the mix of a typically steamy, Southern summer, and the atmosphere becomes such a health hazard that it demands its own warning system. Long before there was a terror alert level, the government understood that there were certain days in metropolitan areas that were so nasty that the federal and local governments now issue ozone quality alerts. Our area experiences code orange and code red alerts throughout the summer. Local radio and television stations will broadcast these alerts to let people know what precautions are necessary to limit health risks.

Local and federal agencies are aware of the risks of ozone and air pollution. FAMPO, Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, has plans for bike lanes and pedestrian paths to decrease traffic congestion in the city and counties. GWRC, George Washington Regional Commission, sponsors telework centers to get more commuters off the roads. GWRC also promotes GWRideConnect, a great way for commuters to learn about carpooling options to D.C., Richmond, Northern Virginia, and Dahlgren. AIRNow monitors air quality data nationwide.

As our area grows in population, the importance of finding ways to manage the environmental concerns increases. Ozone is one problem. Clean water and soil management are others. Our quality of life depends on how these challenges are handled within our jurisdictions. Read on to learn more.

In the Library

Click on titles to go to the CRRL catalog and reserve these books.

Creating Successful Communities: A Guidebook to Growth Management Strategies by Michael A. Mantell, Stephen F. Harper, Luther Propst.
Examines growth management issues such as farmland and historic area preservation. Includes profiles of successful programs and suggestions for citizen involvement in planning for growth. From the Conservation Foundation.

Firefly Guide to Natural Hazards by Robert Kovac
"A compelling, richly illustrated guide to the many large-scale natural disasters that affect life on Earth, both globally and locally. The guide is vital reading for those interested in the environment, geophysics and current affairs. It provides clear descriptions of all types of hazards and the threats they pose."

If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Heal the Earth by Helen Caldicott.
A nuclear activist and medical doctor writes a history of the corporate players in environmental wars and gives some solutions for ozone depletion, excess energy consumption, and global warming.

Into Thin Air: The Problem of Air Pollution by J.S. Kidd and Renee A. Kidd.
A look at how acid rain, ozone depletion, and air pollution affect our health and our economy.

Trashing the Planet: How Science Can Help Us Deal with Acid Rain, Depletion of the Ozone, and Nuclear Waste (Among Other Things) by Dixy Lee Ray with Lou Guzzo.
The other side of the environmental debate from a marine biologist, who is also the former chair of the Atomic Energy Commission and former governor of Washington state. Ray writes against what she considers to be alarmist and ultimately self-serving views of the environmentalists.

What Goes Up: The Global Assault on our Atmosphere by John J. Nance.
Meet the scientists who sift the data on global warming, ozone depletion, and the greenhouse effect.

On the WebLondon in summertime

AIRNow
http://airnow.gov/
This site combines information for consumers, health care providers, and educators from several government agencies. Includes local air quality conditions & forecasts—which can be sent to email accounts, pagers, and cell phones via their free EnviroFlash service.

FAMPO 2030 Constrained Long Range Plan
http://www.fampo.gwregion.org/2035constrainedlongrangeplan.html
What do our region's long-range planners have in store for the communities they serve? Includes transportation plans and studies.

Ground-level Ozone
http://www.epa.gov/air/ozonepollution/index.html
Explains the health problems associated with ozone and details the agency's efforts to reduce it. From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

GWRideConnect
http://gwregion.org/gwrideconnect.html
"GWRideConnect is a free ridesharing service that assists persons who are seeking daily transportation from Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George counties to employment locations in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Richmond, Dahlgren and other employment sites right here in the Fredericksburg area. Learn how GWRideConnect can make your commute easier and less expensive."

NoCommute.org
http://www.nocommute.org/
"Keep your job. Lose the commute."
Telework centers are available in Fredericksburg as well as Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford counties.

Virginia DEQ: Air Quality Information
http://www.deq.state.va.us/airquality/
Has current air quality and forecasts by region and provides automatic notification of air quality alerts through DEQcast.

Virginia Railway Express
http://www.vre.org/
Train travel makes for a relaxing way to work and a cleaner environment through mass transit.