The Air Pollution Control District issued a warning yesterday that we would have a bad air day today. The forecast showed high levels of ozone and the warnings were on target.
Ozone levels started rising into the orange zone around noon. As of 3 pm, the ozone levels were highest at the Cannons Lane monitor. The forecast said that the ozone levels would be in the orange zone. The levels briefly reached red levels, which is bad for everyone.
The Air Now web site listed the Air Quality Index at 158 – the red zone – at 4 pm Friday.
The image below shows ozone levels at 2 pm. At that time, monitors in the southwest corner of our city were showing ozone levels in the yellow zone. The image at the top of the page shows how ozone levels rose over the course of the afternoon.
The APCD forecast for bad air included Saturday and Sunday as well. Babies, older adults, people with breathing problems like COPD or asthma, and anyone who has heart disease should stay inside this weekend. High ozone can be dangerous for anyone who has breathing problems, and red levels (an AQI over 150) are bad for everyone. We should postpone picnics and exercise at the gym instead of the park if ozone levels stay high over the weekend.
You can visit AirNow.gov to check current conditions.
St. Margaret Mary School, 7813 Shelbyville Road, is the new site of an experiment designed to use trees and shrubs to create a living filter for roadway air pollution. The project will be a model for metro-wide “greening” projects that use our environment to improve health.
The Louisville Green for Good project is a collaboration among the Diabetes and Obesity Center at the University of Louisville, The Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil and the City of Louisville’s Office of Sustainability.
The current levels of air pollution at the school will be measured and then half of the school’s front yard will be filled with a green buffer of shrubs, deciduous trees and pines. Then the team will measure air pollution levels a second time. The goal is to test the idea that a greener neighborhood is a healthier neighborhood.
“This project has the potential to improve the health of nearby students and residents for years to come by improving local air quality,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine and director of the University of Louisville Diabetes and Obesity Center. “St. Margaret Mary was chosen due to its location which is close to a high traffic roadway. The school also includes a spacious lawn that allows for the addition of foliage, which will act as an air-cleansing barrier between the school and the street.”
Mayor Greg Fischer said, “I am committed to helping Louisville become a greener and healthier place to live – and, I’m a data guy. So I’m excited that this project will provide the data we need to move forward on our sustainability goals for the city.”
St. Margaret Mary Principal Wendy Sims said she is excited about this project for the parish, school and community.
“In his encyclical letter ‘Laudato Si’,’ Our Holy Father Pope Francis reminds us that ‘we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world, and that being good and decent are worth it…social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society’,” Sims said. “This project is a wonderful lesson for our students, faculty, and parents about how to foster such a culture of care, now and for future generations.”
Air monitoring will start this summer. The trees and shrubs will arrive in October with a second round of air monitoring taking place later this year. Students will participate in the monitoring work.
In addition to tracking certain pollutants, the project team will collect data on traffic and weather.
The project includes ecology experts from around the country with deep understanding of air pollution and the power of plants.
Funding comes from the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.
The research effort is a project of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. The grant was matched with $50,000 from the Owsley Brown Charitable Foundation and $25,000 from an anonymous donor in Louisville. The Institute for Healthy Air, Water, and Soil received the funds and will be managing the project.
Just in time for a bad air day in Louisville, I had the chance to talk with Colin Mayfield at WLKY about AIR Louisville. I explained why we are working with employers and why pollution is bad in our city. During the story, Dr. Bryan Loy explained why Louisville is the perfect spot to test a new approach to treating asthma. Dr. Loy is the market medical director for Humana. He is also the chair of the Louisville Health Advisory Board. Humana has convened this group to address some of the biggest health challenges we face in Louisville, including breathing problems. The Advisory Board is a partner of the AIR Louisville project.
Humana employees in Louisville are also eligible to participate in our community asthma project.
You can watch the interview here.