In 1970 Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, proposed a spring day for Americans to speak out about conserving natural resources. That first Earth Day rallied millions of citizens and spurred Congress to create significant laws for clean air, clean water, and energy conservation. Nelson earned natural resources a lasting place in national politics.
As this year’s Earth Day (Sunday, April 22) approaches, the Fond du Lac County UW-Extension offers an update on local air quality and why it still matters.
According to the American Lung Association, 14% of us have lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, & chronic bronchitis. These people, in addition to active adults, children and senior citizens, are highly susceptible to air pollution.
Air pollution affects the health of people and the economy. The Wisconsin Asthma Coalition reports that asthma costs the state $60 million a year in hospital and emergency room visits, not to mention a loss of productivity at school and work. Reducing air pollution – inside and out – improves health outcomes and the economic costs of preventable diseases.
81% of us drive alone to work. Unfortunately, 80% of Fond du Lac County’s ground level ozone, or “smog,” comes from personal miles traveled in gasoline-powered vehicles. Ozone is a major irritant to lungs and can negatively impact anyone who breathes it at levels routinely found in this area.
21% of us work in manufacturing. As the EPA tightens air quality standards, our county could face stricter permitting, which can negatively impact job growth and economic development.
Lastly, the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence finds 81% of Wisconsin’s energy comes from burning petroleum, coal, and natural gas. These fuels all create more air pollution when burned.
In response to these data, Fond du Lac County businesses and municipalities are taking significant steps to conserve energy and are improving air quality at the same time. Mid-States Aluminum Corporation has saved $86,000 per year on energy costs thanks to Lean Six Sigma techniques and a volunteer Energy Team. At Mercury Marine, a new primer/paint formula in the assembly plant has reduced hazardous air pollutants by 50 percent since 2008.
How can individuals make a difference in air quality? Many local residents combine their errands to reduce car emissions. Some bike, walk or carpool. Even one or two fewer trips a month will improve the air we breathe.
Now in its 100th year of educating residents, Fond du Lac County UW-Extension provides information on clean air at www.FDLHealthyAir.com.