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Fall Heat Wave Brings "Spare The Air Days"

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mike Marchand works as a security guard in downtown Sacramento. He saw it was a Spare the Air Day in the Sacramento Bee. The declaration gets triggered when the air quality index is predicted to top 150, a level which can be unhealthy, even if you're in good health. But Marchand says he didn't need to read the warning,

MARCHAND: I stay inside; I don't go out in this crap, because breathing problems, itchy eyes and all that stuff.

Larry Greene is with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality District. He says Spare the Air Days aren't so much aimed at letting people know the air is nasty. There's a more important reason. 

GREENE:  A spare the air day has the goal of getting the public, enough of the public, a portion of the public to change what they do. To carpool that day, maybe if they have the option to stay at home and to carpool they can do it that day. So we are trying to get enough people to change behavior, to reduce vehicle miles driven, that we actually reduce pollution. .  

I took a very unscientific survey of people in downtown Sacramento.  I found the message is getting through to some people.  Though, one woman said she hadn't heard of spare the air, and in any case she wasn't about to shift from driving to light rail for environmental reasons. But Mike Marchand says he does change his plans on spare the air days. 


MARCHAND: Last night we went to Jamba Juice, that's it. Normally we would go to Wal-Mart and go grocery shopping. No we ate what we had at home and we stayed in.

RUBIN: Because it was a Spare the Air day?

MARCHAND: Yes it was not nice out.

The Air District's Larry Greene says the kinds of changes people like Mike Marchand make do improve air quality.  He hopes more people will get the message.

GREENE: First of all it matters to your health... to your health personally but it also matters especially to those people with children, the elderly, people who are more sensitive to air quality.

The air is forecast to be unhealthy again today, but not quite a spare the air day. The AQI is predicted to top out around 123. And this weekend, cooler temperatures will yield air quality that is good to moderate.  


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