Friday, August 19, 2016

The perennial dilemma

Air is a common resource. Each of us suffers from degradation of the air quality, but we have no little control over what others do to the air that we personally breathe.

When people think of the Boulder, they don't often think of air pollution. But, the elevation and topography (mountains to the west and northwest and the Louisville Rise to the east and southeast), and the automobile traffic in this small town, mean that the nose-level pollution in central Boulder is usually higher than the western coastal neighborhoods of Los Angeles. (My doctors had recommended in the 1990s that I move away from Boulder for my health and suggested coastal LA as a good alternative.)

You can't see ozone, but it is created by a combination of automobile exhaust and sunlight, specifically UV radiation.  At high altitudes, we have plenty of UV (and cosmic ray) radiation.

Ozone is a lung irritant.

We can't control sunshine, so the only way to keep the ozone from reaching dangerously high levels is to refrain from driving.  That means you AND me.

But, sensitive people are cautioned from strenuous outdoor exercise during high ozone days.

What does an asthmatic do when an Ozone Action Day is called?  Ride my bike and possibly have an asthma attack?  Drive solo and pollute the air even more?

The combination of pollen and ozone is particularly irritating.  People with pollen allergies can be affected by lower levels of pollen when ozone is present.  The only time I ever ended up in a clinic gasping for breath was when I went for an after work run (in grad school in the 1990s) up Boulder canyon during a day with both high ragweed pollen and high ozone.  I now get allergy shots and that has helped somewhat.  But, I still avoid outdoor exercise when pollens are especially high.

Fortunately, my bike and I can pick up a shuttle bus to work 2 blocks from my condo and be whisked up to the main entrance of Mesa Lab.

So many of my coworkers did the same, we filled up both the front and rear bike racks of the van.

Some even took the RTD bus to meet the shuttle.

The best part of leaving the driving to someone else is that my hands are free to take pictures like this.
The ride home is an 800 foot elevation drop, so it is not the strenuous type of exercise that would be dangerous for me.

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