Westchester County

Air Quality

Air Quality

Air quality is influenced by many factors - man-made pollution being one of them. Air pollution consists of hazardous substances in the air that can increase your chances of experiencing health problems if exposed to them.  The two most common pollutants are ozone (smog) and particulate matter (pollen, soot, dust, etc.).

Air pollution comes from many different sources: factories, power plants, local industries, incinerators, cars, buses, planes, trucks, and naturally occurring sources such as wind-blown dust.

Everyone can be affected by poor air quality. However, children and those with chronic respiratory problems are the most sensitive to air pollution. Children breathe more rapidly and inhale more pollution per pound of body weight than adults. Therefore, their lungs have a greater chance for being exposed to harmful air pollutants. Childhood asthma is on the increase nationally, and environmental pollutants may contribute to this trend.  People with chronic respiratory problems experience an aggravation of their symptoms with air pollution.

What can I do to reduce air pollution and thereby improve air quality? You, as an individual, can do a number of things, such as:

  • Conserve energy
  • Drive less, ride your bike or walk
  • Carpool
  • Make sure your car is well-tuned
  • Take care not to spill gasoline when filling the tank of your car, lawn mower or recreation equipment
  • Make sure that chemical product lids are closed tightly

Resources for taking action to improve air quality

What is ozone (smog)?
Ozone is an air pollutant that irritates the respiratory system and may cause decreased lung function.  Air pollution containing ozone is formed by the photochemical reaction of motor vehicle related pollutants (gasoline vapors and tailpipe emissions) in the presence of high temperature and sunlight.  "Ozone alerts" are occasionally issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, usually on hot summer days when the air is stagnant.

What should I do to reduce my exposure to ozone?
On days with "ozone alerts", residents should limit strenuous outdoor physical activity, such as jogging, and ball-playing during the afternoon hours when ozone levels rise to unhealthy levels.  Ozone levels generally decrease in the evening and can be minimized during daylight hours by reducing automobile travel and by using public transportation, where available.

Environmental engineers and sanitarians monitor the permitted releases from industrial and commercial facilities to ensure compliance with State regulations.  They seek to protect our ambient air quality through plan reviews and approvals of industrial processes, as well as through inspections in response to complaints from County residents.