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Breathe Deeply

A response to Portland’s air quality and ways to get involved

There is a buzz in the air. This year Portland residents have been made aware of dangerous levels of air pollution in a few east side hotspots, including Arsenic, Cadmium, Nickel, and Chromium. Who knew that a US Forest Service study of urban tree moss could be so enlightening? It has even sparked community movement groups like the Eastside Portland Air Coalition or the South Portland Air Quality Group to champion the improvement of Portland’s air quality and push to better regulate heavy metal pollutants. 2016 is also a landmark year for air quality revelation with the American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air Report. A three year comprehensive study of ozone levels and particle pollution, the State of the Air gives us an idea which cities have the healthiest or unhealthiest air.

On the whole, the report shows that national and local efforts to clean up pollution are working, with some places doing better than others. Despite this outcome, key findings state that more than half of Americans, roughly 166 million of us, live in counties with unhealthful levels of ozone and particulates.  Regulators are taking note of these results. In late 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthened the ozone air quality standard. The Air Quality Index – a number that forecasts how polluted the air is and could become – has been adjusted to reflect the more protective ozone standard.  You can visit Air Now to find out the daily AQI forecast for your area.

We all need the air. No matter where you go on earth we all use it the same. It is important to treat this resource with a special care and consideration, even if it is not always something we can see. The easiest and most effective way to save our air is to save and conserve energy. Electricity generation is the highest contributor of harmful compounds in our atmosphere. There are many other ways you can help our air. Here are some of my favorites: drive less and walk or bike to travel, plant a tree, use cold water instead of hot water, use a fan instead of AC, avoid products using aerosol, garden organically, weatherize and insulate your home, use products with less packaging, reduce, reuse, and recycle!

The winds of change are stirring and you can be a new breath of fresh air. Commit to take a daily walk, plant two trees this year, or tune up your car. It’s the little things that add up to the most benefit in reducing harmful emissions, saving energy, and the great blue sky. You can follow the quality of our local environment, file a complaint or report a spill with Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), whose mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining, and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land, and water. Together, we can all strive to do the same.


Devin Graham


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