AQES’ Role in Air Quality Awareness
How often do you think about the air you breathe? In AQES, we have an entire Division of highly-trained staff who think about New Jersey’s air all the time. The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is responsible for ensuring that New Jersey’s air is clean and safe, from both a public health (e.g. acute and chronic health impacts) and public welfare (e.g., damage to plants and other property) perspective. This is no small task in a heavily populated and industrialized Northeastern state, and requires a lot of moving parts to accomplish. To that end, DAQ has scientists that monitor the air to determine pollutant levels; meteorologists that analyze air quality emissions and the weather patterns in an effort to predict when pollutant levels will be high; engineers who work with industry to determine appropriate, or permitted, levels of emissions from their facilities; scientists and engineers who focus their attention on reducing emissions from mobile sources such as cars and trucks; and planners who pull all this information together in an effort to determine how best to ensure the State meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
In addition to all that work, DAQ must communicate this information effectively to you, so that you understand your role in clean air, and how best to protect yourself when pollutant levels are high. That’s the focus DAQ outreach initiatives like Clean Air NJ and Stop the Soot. Keeping track of New Jersey’s air quality is complicated, involving various pollutants (some of which are directly emitted and others that are formed in the atmosphere), meteorological factors (e.g., wind speeds, temperature) and sources (some of which are in state, and others that come from our neighboring states). Communicating all this to you, and motivating you to do your part, is key to keeping New Jersey’s air clean and people safe.
In 2015, DAQ starting providing “stories” for each summer ozone exceedance (ozone is the only NAAQS that the State currently doesn’t meet). These ”stories” use science to show, through meteorological and air quality conditions, why each exceedance looks different in terms of where ozone was formed and transported. This was another way DAQ sought to communicate the complexity of air quality to the public.
So as the summer kicks off, bringing ozone season into focus, take a moment to think about the air you breathe, get educated about air quality and take simple steps to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Receive daily local air quality forecast by signing up for EnviroFlash, a free online system that delivers air quality information to your cell or e-mail address. For more information about DAQ and its efforts to protect New Jersey air, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep/daq/.