Saturday, February 23, 2008

More Dirty Air, All Day, Entire State

The polluted air in Wisconsin is likely to drive more people out of Wisconsin than the tax climate.

We've seen these bad air alerts and warnings all winter.

Here's the unhealthy news from the DNR, again for this weekend, and now updated to include the entire sstate Monday, too, (and illustrated here by The Racine Post blog):

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution (Orange) effective Saturday, February 23, 2008 1:01:51 PM through Sunday, February 24, 2008 11:59:59 AM for all Wisconsin Counties.

The advisory is being issued because of persistent elevated levels of fine particles in the air. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and wood fires.

The Air Quality Index is currently in the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups.

People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an orange advisory for particle pollution is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shor tness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms.

Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

To receive air quality advisories by e-mail, visit
There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem.
Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.
Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.
Minimize outdoor wood fires.
Conserve electricity.
For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!< /ul>
For more information:
Federal interagency air quality web site, for information on the Air Quality Index and nationwide air quality forecasts and air quality conditions,
DNR's statewide air quality monitoring web page,
For local DNR air management program contacts,

1 comment:

Steve Branca said...

This is backwards. The issue, not the story. So industry and cars foul the air and it's the "sensitive groups" who have to change THEIR behaviour? Say again? While living in Wind Point I had a very personal experience in dealing with air pollution. Outdoor burning is legal, and a furiously-defended "right" in Wind Point and elsewhere in Wisconsin, and burn they do. As a member of one of those "sensitive groups" (asthma), it regularly imperiled my health. When someone sets a fire, their smoke respects no property boundaries. Their convenience becomes a serious health threat for me. On nice dry days the leaf and trash fires would start, forcing me to close all the windows in the house so I could breathe. (I am not exaggerating.) Adding insult to injury was the idea that there are so few days of the year when one can enjoy fresh air flowing through the house, that it was taken away from me on many of those very days. This is not even to mention having to STAY inside on those days.
This is legal, even in an area designated by the EPA as a serious non-attainment area, which is stupid. If you don't like the sanctions that poor air quality threaten, shouldn't you want to address the problem? Banning outdoor burning is about the easiest thing to do; almost no one has any need to burn stuff. But, no. At a meeting of WP trustees on the subject a resident commented that anyone who has breathing trouble should just go the emergency room. (Note that Village trustee Anne Brodek has worked hard to get some control on outdoor burning with little success so far, and no thanks. Except from me.) This is blaming the victim writ large.
How would you feel if I had a way to keep you from drinking water? Wouldn't like that, would you. Get pretty thirsty? Maybe a little weak after a while? Perhaps get angry with me? Wonder why no one seemed to care about you potentially dying of thirst, or why this "individual right" is so preciously guarded? Well then, why is it not just OK, but entirely legal, to deprive me of oxygen? That's what air pollution does. We don't have huge multi-billion dollar filtration plants for air (yet) like with water. WMC would certainly oppose building such things because of the expense. Obviously, they still haven't realized that keeping air clean is cheaper than cleaning it up. Perhaps someone should ask them point blank why they want Wisconsin to be a special place for polluting industry.
Now that I am in New Zealand where the air is much fresher, I can appreciate the difference. All is not completely rosy here, though. They are only now getting to strict auto emission testing that has been routine in parts of the US - even Wisconsin - for years. But here, unlike being in the middle of a huge industrialized land mass like North America, when the prevailing winds are from the south or southwest, the only land mass downwind is Antarctica. Not much pollution there to bother us. From the southeast through northeast, only places like Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti, and New Caledonia. Pretty clean air all around. Prevailing winds from any bar, cafe or restaurant are equally fresh, not counting the occasional whiff of stale beer or fish and chips. As I write, across the bay is a huge outdoor fire putting out megatons of white smoke. Paradise lost? Maybe, but closer to it than Wisconsin, which has a much bigger hole to dig itself out of.