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Keep Air Clean

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Even cities can have clean air if we all
do our part

Clean air is vital to human health and the ecosystem. Most air pollutants come from manufacturing industries, vehicles and heating and cooling. But many come from everyday activities. Small changes in our daily routine can make a significant difference in the quality of the air we breathe.

Clean Air at Home

  • Choose pump sprays instead of aerosol sprays
    Aerosols waste much of the product, spewing it into the air (and your lungs) instead of where you want it. Non-aerosol products include roll-on deodorant, shaving soap, setting lotion or gel.
  • Refuel garden equipment carefully
    Spilled gasoline + sunlight and summer heat = pollution that irritates the lungs and causes smog. Use a spout or funnel to avoid spills and don't overfill.
  • Cleaner lawn and garden equipment
    Small gas engines - like the engine in your mower, handheld leaf blower, and chainsaw - put out exhaust, just like cars. Unlike cars, these small engines don't have pollution controls. Try electric or battery powered models to take advantage of New York's clean energy grid.
  • Leaf Blowers
    Leaf blower emissions can affect air quality through fuel combustion and the blowing of dust particles. The fuel (evaporative and unburnt) and exhaust emissions consist of hydrocarbons (HC), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and fine particulate matter (PM). The amount of CO (carbon monoxide) emitted from a typical backpack leaf blower for just 1 hour is equal to CO coming from the tailpipe of a current year automobile operating for over 8 hours. For the other pollutants, the amounts are even greater.
    Leaf blowers push 300 to 700 cubic feet of air per minute at 150 to 280 MPH. The resulting dust can contain PM2.5 and PM10 particles, including pollen and mold, animal feces, heavy metals, and chemicals from herbicides and pesticides. Dust emissions from leaf blowers are not part of the USEPA inventory of fugitive dust sources. No data on the amount and size distributions of dust from leaf blower activities have been collected, although estimates for PM10 range from <1% up to 5% of the total generated statewide.
    • Use a mulching mower and stay off paved areas.
    • Rake or sweep leaves, and compost or use for landscaping.
    • Use an electric plug-in or battery operated yard vacuum. Many shred the leaves, so they are compacted and can be used as compost. Vacuums are also effective with needles.
    • Use a battery operated or plug-in leaf blower. Electric blowers are generally quieter than gasoline models and do not generate ground-level exhaust emissions.
    • If electric power is not available, consider an EPA approved 4-stroke internal combustion engine instead of a 2-stroke.
    • Ensure the equipment is in proper working order - inspect the air filters, air intakes and muffler before operation.
    • Operate the blower at the lowest possible throttle speed to do the job. Lower speeds reduce sound and give the operator maximum control. Full throttle is seldom necessary.
    • Use the nozzle extension so the air stream is directed close to the ground to minimize dust. Pay close attention to the generation of dust. In dusty conditions, use mister attachments to slightly dampen surfaces.
    • To clean an excessively dusty area, use a shovel to pick up the large debris.
    • Don't use leaf blowers to move large debris piles.
  • Storing gasoline
    Vapor escaping from gas cans creates tons of air pollution per day, including benzene, and ozone that makes asthma symptoms and smog worse. Buy a new gas can that seals automatically when the spout isn't being used. The seal keeps the gas and vapors in the can where they belong. Use a metal or other newer approved gas can (leaves DEC website) that can be easily handled and held.
  • Use latex paints
    Oil-based paints contain solvents that evaporate easily and give off fumes. Water-based latex paint has better color retention and releases less pollution into the air.
  • Choose low volatile organic compound (VOC) products
    Cleaning solvents, paints, stains and even personal care products with VOCs can emit toxic or otherwise harmful fumes. Avoid such items whenever possible, especially in winter when ventilation to the outside is limited.
  • Check for fever with a digital thermometer
    If an old-fashioned thermometer breaks, mercury can evaporate to form a harmful vapor. Never throw products containing mercury in the trash. Contact local authorities for disposal programs.
  • Clean air grilling
    Natural gas-fired grills produce the least air pollution, but fans of charcoal grilling can still green their BBQ. Choose natural hardwood charcoal with high heat output and low ash. To heat coals, use a charcoal chimney starter and newspaper, thereby avoiding the fumes and dangers associated with lighter fluid.
  • Camp fires
    Use unpainted and untreated woods to help reduce air toxins. Remember, burning trash causes pollution, health risks, and is illegal! Don't leave your camp fire, or any fire, unattended. Any outdoor fire that isn't carefully made and watched can cause dangerous wildfires and polluting smoke. Follow DEC's guidelines for camp fire safety.
  • Eliminate burn barrels
    Municipal waste incinerators operate at 1,800°F and use filters to reduce harmful emissions, but backyard burn barrels -which are illegal - rarely exceed 500°F and release up to 40 times the amount of toxins and pollutants as permitted facilities. Plastics, foils, batteries and chlorine-bleached paper are especially bad. There are other options for leaf disposal. Brush of a certain size may be burned in towns with populations under 20,000, but not between March 16 and May 14. Contact DEC's Division of Air at with questions.
  • Have your heating system checked and cleaned
    Oil-fired systems should be serviced every year; gas-fired systems should be serviced every three years. Regular maintenance increases the lifespan of heating systems, reducing heating costs and lowering particulate and carbon monoxide emissions.
  • Combat your neighbor's smoke
    Only clean, seasoned wood may be burned in outdoor wood boilers (OWB). In addition, new OWBs must meet setback and chimney height requirements. Here's what to do when smoke from a neighbor's OWB causes you problems.

Clean Air on the Road

  • Gas up after dusk
    Refueling any motorized vehicle or appliance allows the escape of vapors that, on summer days, can lead to ozone formation. Simply waiting until dusk to refuel can reduce this phenomenon. Ozone damages crops, forests, structures, and human health.
  • Don't overfill your tank
    Topping off your gas tank after the pump automatically turns off can harm your vehicle's emissions system. Gas station pumps are designed to turn off at a fuel level that leaves room in the tank for the emissions system to operate correctly. If you smell gas while refueling, that means highly toxic substances are in the air.
  • Drive smart
    Decreasing emissions from vehicles is key to keeping our air clean. Conserve fuel by driving the speed limit, carpooling, and combining trips.
  • Keep your vehicle in excellent running condition
    Make sure to maintain proper tire pressure to maximize miles per gallon and reduce particulate matter emissions.
  • Clean diesel is not an oxymoron
    Newer clean diesel vehicles are up to 35% more efficient than vehicles with gas engines. Thanks to ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, they are among the least polluting vehicles available.
  • Gas saving tips
    • Driving habits make a difference. Avoid fast starts and excessive brake use.
    • Combine errands.
    • Drive the speed limit.
    • Make a green choice when buying a new car.
    • Good tire maintenance = better mileage. Consider buying "low rolling resistance" tires.
    • Check wheel alignment as misaligned wheels will increase fuel use.
    • Lose the weight by carrying as little cargo weight as possible and discarding garbage periodically.
    • Keep the engine tuned.
    • Avoid unnecessary idling.
    • Ease off the gas pedal when approaching red light or stop sign.

Clean Air at Play

  • Check air quality
    Being active outside can be dangerous - especially for kids and seniors - if the ozone level is high. Go to the Air Quality Index Forecast page or call 1-800-535-1345 for advisories. You can also use our interactive map (leaves DEC website) to check the air quality in your area. Ozone can cause respiratory problems including coughing, shortness of breath, decreased lung function and increased susceptibility to respiratory infection.
  • Plant trees and enjoy the cleaner air
    Did you know that over a 40-year period, one tree will remove 600 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, from the air? Plant trees and shrubs to absorb CO2, and grow flowers in your garden and community to enjoy the cleaner air with your family and loved ones.

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