As Winter Approaches, Vermont Scientists and Health Officials Offer Air Quality Guidance

December 9, 2021 – Governor Phil Scott has designated Monday, December 13, 2021, as Air Quality Awareness Day in Vermont. In recognition of this day, scientists and health officials from the National Weather Service in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY, the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation are offering tips and guidance for how Vermonters can sign up for air quality forecasts in their area, find out what to do on days with poor air quality, and learn how to improve Vermont’s air quality.

“Thanks to decades of air pollution reduction locally and out of state, Vermont has healthy, clean air more often than not,” said Bennet Leon, Air Quality Planning Section Chief at the DEC. “However, we want everyone to be aware of periods of unhealthy air quality when it occurs.”

Even in Vermont, air quality can occasionally reach unhealthy levels, especially in the winter when many people are using furnaces, boilers, or woodstoves to heat their homes. These heating sources produce smoke and other pollutants which may cause significant health problems, including lung and eye irritation, headaches, asthma attacks, acute bronchitis, and other breathing difficulties. It can also lead to long-term health effects.

“Infants, children, older adults, and anyone with existing heart or lung conditions are more susceptible to the health effects of particle pollution,” said David Grass, Environmental Health Program Manager at the Health Department. “And if the pollution reaches high enough levels, the air can be unhealthy for everyone, especially those who are active outdoors.”

Weather plays a big role in the levels of air pollution. Regional weather systems can bring in air pollution, sometimes from hundreds of miles away, into our state. Just such an event occurred this summer as smoke from distant wildfires resulted in two air quality alerts. During winter, calm conditions and temperature inversions can worsen air quality by keeping local pollution concentrated near the ground, especially in valleys. “This campaign is important as it will help bring awareness to the weather conditions that may lead to poor air quality so that the people of Vermont can better protect themselves.”

A joint statement made by Scott Whittier, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at National Weather Service Burlington, VT and Stephen DiRienzo, Warning Coordination Meteorologist/Acting Meteorologist-in-Charge, National Weather Service Albany, NY.

Here are some ways to protect your health and reduce air quality pollution this winter:

1. Check your local air quality forecast at www.airnow.gov.

2. Sign up for daily air quality forecasts at www.enviroflash.info or get the app for your

smartphone

3. Set up automatic alerts using the VT-ALERT notification system to receive notifications and

guidance when there is poor air quality expected in your area.

4. Carpool or use public transportation whenever possible.

5. Avoid open burning. Burning trash is not allowed in Vermont.

6. Keep your car in good operating condition and get regular tune ups.

7. Inspect, clean and keep heating systems in good working order.

 

For more information, visit www.airquality.noaa.gov. For weather information, including real-time

weather conditions and forecasts, visit weather.gov/btv/ and weather.gov/aly. To subscribe to alert

notifications, sign up at VTalert.gov or www.enviroflash.info/. Learn more about wood heat and indoor

air quality here.