Let’s Come Together to Protect Air Quality During Inversions

It’s that dreaded time of year when inversions cause valleys across Idaho to fill with pollution. While we can’t prevent inversions, we can all do our part to keep pollution levels as low as possible.

We all breathe the air, so let’s all protect it!

Here are some simple, yet effective changes we can make during inversions to protect our air quality.

  • Use public transportation instead of driving alone. Check your local public transit provider to find bus routes and schedules. Don’t have a public transit option? Contact your state legislator to express your desire for more public transit!
  • Carpool or rideshare. You can organize a commuter group amongst your friends and family, or reach out on social media to find some new commuting friends!
  • Try telecommuting. Some workplaces are flexible and allow employees to work from home on bad air days. Not sure about your work? Start asking and offer to create a telecommuting program for your workplace.
  • Avoid fires in your wood stove. Now’s not the time to burn unless it’s your primary source of heat during the winter.

How Will I Know When There’s An Inversion?

Inversions are naturally-occurring weather events where a layer or warm air high above the ground surface acts as a lid or trap, holding cold air closer to the ground and preventing any sort of circulation (see diagram on the side). You’ll know an inversion is occurring when you notice a brown haze or smog continue to build up over multiple days. Depending on the weather, inversions can last from a few days to a couple weeks. Eventually a new storm system will come in and mix the air, bringing it back to healthy levels. But until then, we’re stuck with poor air quality.

While inversions themselves aren’t bad, the fact that air becomes stagnant means that pollution from vehicle exhaust or burning wood becomes trapped in our breathing zone, creating a serious risk to public health. Levels of PM2.5 pollution — think microscopic pieces of material floating in the air — can reach the “unhealthy for all” level on the Air Quality Index during an inversion. While we should all take steps to protect our health, those with respiratory illnesses, children and the elderly are most at risk.

Climbing Above an Inversion?  Share Some Pictures!

One of the worst parts about inversion conditions is that it hinders us all from doing what we love — playing outside! But even when a fresh storm is days away from blowing out pollution, you can still escape inversions by climbing above them. Do you have an inversion escape plan? If so, share your photos of you and your family and friends climbing above the inversion to escape the air pollution!  

Want to Stay Informed on Air Quality Issues in Idaho?

There’s a lot going on these days, and it’s hard to keep up with everything. Stay in the loop on environmental issues in Idaho is by signing up for our e-mailsWe’ll keep you up to date on what you can do to be involved with Idaho’s environmental community.

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