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Gentlepeople, turn off your engines!

Christopher Smith

Runners need oxygen, not ozone

As someone who runs, bikes and hikes religiously, I’d like to join the Clark County Department of Air Quality in asking: Please stop idling your engine and topping off your gas tank, at least through September. Why? Because we’re entering the period known to environmental-health watchdogs as ozone season, that hot time of year when thoughtless energy waste harms more than just the Earth; it hurts me, too — along with children, the elderly and anyone who does strenuous activities outdoors.

“As the weather warms up, ozone pollution becomes a concern throughout the spring and summer months in Las Vegas Valley,” said Lewis Wallenmeyer, the county’s director of air quality, in an advisory issued April 1. Exposure to ozone can induce coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, even in healthy people, the advisory warns.

If you’re all, “But, I thought ozone was good?” you’re right — partially. The same gas that forms the protective layer in the upper atmosphere, shielding us from the sun’s UV radiation, is a problem closer to home. “Ozone air pollution at ground level where we can breathe it in causes serious health problems” by “aggressively attacking lung tissue and reacting chemically to it,” explains the American Lung Association.

Sponsor Message

The sun heats up pollutants such as car exhaust and wildfire smoke to create ozone, aka smog. People can reduce their contribution to this breathable toxic sludge by heeding the following advice from the Clark County Department of Air Quality:

  • Use mass transit or carpool.
  • Plan errands so they can be done in one trip.
  • Keep your call well-maintained.
  • Don’t idle your car engine unnecessarily.
  • Walk or ride your bike whenever practical and safe.
  • Turn off lights and electronics when not in use. Less fuel burned at power plants means cleaner air.
  • Consider low-maintenance landscaping that uses less water and doesn’t require the use of gas-powered lawn tools to maintain.
  • Limit the use of outdoor fireplaces, grills and fire pits, particularly during daytime hours.
  • Try not to spill gasoline when filling up, and don’t top off your gas tank.
  • Fill up your gas tank after sunset.

It’s not all that much to ask, is it? And you’ll earn the gratitude of your nieces and nephews, Grandma — and me.

Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.