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Media Relations Contact:
Morgan Lyons

May 22, 2000

What are you breathing?

New Air Quality Tools Keep Residents Informed, DART Helps Commuters Take Action

The North Texas Clean Air Coalition is helping to introduce a new communications tool to help residents know when to take action, and DART is working with commuters and area organizations to help clean up the air.

"In an effort to better explain the health effects of air pollution, the term Ozone Action is being replaced with Air Pollution Watch and Air Pollution Warning," said Shannon Morris, project manager, North Texas Clean Air Coalition (NTCAC).

The new designation, Air Pollution Watch, will be announced the day before high air pollution levels are expected. In addition to notifying people of the potential risk to public health, the air pollution watch program will serve the same function as the traditional Ozone Action day notices. On these days, people will be encouraged to take steps to reduce ozone emissions, such as carpooling and using DART. However, the NTCAC recommends citizens attempt to reduce ozone emissions everyday during the summer ozone season, May 1 - October 31.

An Air Pollution Warning will notify people when they should actually try to avoid being outdoors because of possible health risks.

Local air quality will now be reported using the new Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI uses five colors, green, yellow, orange, red and purple, to describe expected air quality.

GREEN   (Good)No activity restrictions.
YELLOW   (Moderate)Unusually sensitive people should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
ORANGE   (Unhealthy for sensitive groups)Everyone should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
RED   (Unhealthy)Everyone should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion.
PURPLE   (Very Unhealthy)Everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion.


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air is bad enough in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to designate the region as a serious ozone non-attainment area. This means that cities in the area have failed to comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act.

DART can help
Residents are especially encouraged to carpool or use DART as one way of responding to the air quality watches and warnings. But those are good choices everyday.

"DART offers a number of solutions to reduce pollution and promote transit use. One of those tools is DART's E-Pass program," said Matt Raymond, DART marketing and communications assistant vice president. Designed to promote regular transit ridership, the program allows employers to buy deeply discounted annual passes for every full-time employee. Good for unlimited travel on DART's regular bus and rail routes, the passes are sold to the participating businesses or organizations at significantly discounted rates. E-Pass information is available by calling 214-747-RIDE (7433) or by visiting the DART website, www.DART.org.

What is ozone pollution?
Ozone pollution is the periodic increase in the concentration of ozone in the natural air that surrounds us. It is mainly considered a daytime problem during the summer months because warm temperatures play a role in its formation. When the sun is bright, temperatures are high and the winds are almost calm, ozone can collect and reach unhealthy levels.

Ozone is also one of several pollutants that make up smog -- the reddish-brown haze that forms when air quality is really poor. Because ozone is colorless, the air can look clear when high ozone concentrations are present.

Each year smog is responsible for millions of cases of serious respiratory disorders, reduced lung capacity and inflamed lung tissue. Smog also increases the intensity of numerous cases of children with asthma.

The ozone standard established in the Clean Air Act is 120 parts per billion, and if any ozone monitor in the D/FW region exceeds this standard more than three times over a three-year period, the region is considered non-attainment. In 1999, the D/FW area had 25 Ozone Alert days, and on 10 of those days, ozone levels were dangerous.

How can you protect yourself?
  • Limit exposure to particulate matter air pollution -- it can trigger asthma attacks and cause wheezing, coughing and respiratory irritation in individuals with sensitive airways.

  • Keep track of air pollution levels by paying close attention to the AQI reported in your area.

  • Adjust your plans for the day if the air quality is unhealthy, and avoid prolonged vigorous outdoor activity. Plan the most strenuous activities for the early morning hours.

  • Limit driving on air pollution watch days. Actions like car pooling, riding the bus, light rail or commuter rail can help. In fact, those are good choices every day.

    More information about air quality in North Texas is available by contacting the Clean Air Coalition at 972-621-0400 or by visiting their website, www.ntc-dfw.org.


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