Cape & Islands Self Reliance Energy Tip

Stop idling and you'll stop contributing to the Cape's air pollution

Recent above normal temperatures in the Northeast have resulted in bad air quality warnings throughout the region, particularly on the Cape and Islands. These air pollution warnings should serve as a reminder to turn our engines off when not in use. Idling bus, truck and passenger vehicle engines for too long not only increases peopleâ??s exposure to harmful air pollution, it is also against the law in Massachusetts. State law limits most engine idling to five minutes or less, and the restriction applies to both gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

â??Many drivers let their engines idle unnecessarily,â? said Cape and Islands Self Reliance Executive Director, Megan Amsler. â??Excessive engine idling needlessly exposes people who live, work, and play on the Cape to air pollution, and it also wastes fuel and shortens engine life.â?

Vehicle exhaust has numerous detrimental effects on our health and environment. Exhaust from motor vehicles is a key component of ground-level ozone or smog, which is formed when certain pollutants are exposed to heat and sunlight. More than 35% of nitrogen loading to some coastal embayments results from atmospheric deposition, and local fish consumption advisories are attributable at least in part to mercury releases associated with fossil fuel combustion. Diesel exhaust contains fine particles that can penetrate deeply into the lungs and cause breathing difficulties, respiratory infections, and attacks of asthma and chronic bronchitis. Gasoline exhaust contains toxic carbon monoxide and a range of pollutants that contribute to smog and make breathing difficult for everyone. Children are particularly susceptible because their lungs are still developing and pound for pound, they breathe 50 percent more air than adults do. People with respiratory ailments and the elderly are also at risk. All of these contaminants are produced when motor vehicles idle.

This year, air quality in Barnstable County received another failing grade from the American Lung Association in their State of the Air: 2006 report, which placed Cape Cod among counties in the United States with the dirtiest levels of air pollution. In an effort to improve regional air quality, Barnstable and Falmouth joined the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Campaign in 2002 and made a commitment to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with municipal facilities and operations, as well as other activities within their borders by using electricity and fuels more efficiently.

The goal of the Massachusetts anti-idling law is to improve air quality by reducing unnecessary engine idling to five minutes or less. There are many advantages to reducing idling, including protecting your familyâ??s health and your own, improving the environment and saving money by not wasting fuel.

So, turn off your engine as soon as you reach your destination and safely park, and encourage your friends, family and coworkers to stop idling.

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