Less air pollution an unintended consequence of COVID-19 shutdown

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - We're now into the month of May, and that means we're inching closer to the start of tracking ground-level ozone and air pollutants.

"During the summer, especially, there isn't much air movement, and air quality gets much worse. And we want to prevent that as much as we can," Marc VonDeylen, Transportation Planner with Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, said.

And in the past couple of months, cutting down air pollution has been an unintended side effect of the stay-at-home order.

"When people stay home, and they're especially not driving, that's a big factor with air quality. There has been a big improvement in the air," VonDeylen said.

But he says that it's not impossible to keep up the smaller carbon footprint.

"This is kind of an eye-opener that we can definitely affect the air quality,” VonDeylen says. “But we need to try to do more than what we do."

He says it all starts with being mindful in your habits: "Drive less, or use fewer things that have fumes like mowing the lawn, or don't use spray paint and use paintbrushes instead. Those are all things that can affect ground-level ozone."

TMACOG has partnered with the City of Toledo's Environmental Services to produce a daily ozone forecast, so you can know which days you need to be extra vigilant. You can find that here.

The forecast labels the ozone levels for each day as Good, Satisfactory, Precautionary Measures Should be Taken, and Caution.

"So if you come to our website, you will see that forecast. And if it's one of those two bad ones, Precautionary Measures Should be Taken, or Caution, that's a day you really should try to do your best to affect the air quality," VonDeylen said.

VonDeylen explains that ground-level ozone is a lung irritant, especially those with vulnerable conditions.

“Ground-level ozone affects us all, but it affects older people, and particularly people with asthma and makes it harder for them to breathe." VonDeylen said.

TMACOG usually holds gas cap testing each summer and will replace your cap if it fails. Because of COVID-19 and social distancing, VonDeylen says that won't take place this year but hopes to come up with another way to help residents cut down on their emissions.