June 9, 2005 9:17 PM   Subscribe

What are we supposed to do during a smog alert?

Apparantly Toronto has had 5 smog alerts already this month, and it's only the ninth today. It's getting a lot of press as a horrible problem, but I don't understand the purpose of these alerts. I've seen a few people wearing masks -- is that the intention? Stay inside/wear masks? Is there something I'm supposed to do other than continuing to not own a car, using public transit, walking, and reading the paper and thinking "mmhmm, welcome to the Big Smoke"?
posted by heatherann to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
On these days, we urge residents to cut back on any activities that cause pollution-such as driving and using oil-based paints, gasoline-powered lawn mowers, or household aerosol products like hair sprays.
-- From the California spare the air site.

Also, if you have asthma, you have to take extra precautions/your meds/etc. because it'll be tough on your breathing. (The emergency rooms tend to get jammed with kids and old people with asthma on those days.)
posted by Gucky at 9:26 PM on June 9, 2005

If you know you have respiratory problems, you should be even more careful than you usually are.

If you're a youngish adult in normal health, all it really means is that you should pay attention to your breathing if you're doing heavy physical work, or consider putting it off. Smog alert days are not days for running marathons or mowing the back forty with a hand-pushed reel mower unless there's a good reason they need to be done today.

They're like high-temperature alerts in heat waves in that respect. For most people (not-elderly adults in normal health), not a matter of any serious concern even well past 100F/40C; for some people, important information telling them to modify their behavior / plans or face Serious Medical Consequences.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:41 PM on June 9, 2005

Best answer: Basically, if you don't own a car, then the alerts are telling you not to exercise strenuously outside, and cut down on your electricity use. Car owners should choose alternatives if possible. It's also to warn people with asthma or other breathing problems to stay indoors.

If you feel a real need for action, there are a lot of groups in Toronto organizing things like no-car days, yellow bike programs etc. You could probably find out through a PIRG (U of T and York both seem to have one, but neither has websites that I could find). The Toronto Smog Blog has what looks like a good list of links, including what to do in case of smog.

You could also look into buying some Green Tags.
posted by carmen at 9:46 PM on June 9, 2005

Things to avoid on smog alert/ozone action days, in short, no clicking necessary:

- Filling a gas tank
- Using a clothes dryer
- Using excessive electricity (turn off those unnecessary lights, turn up the thermostat)
- Mowing your lawn/doing outside work with gasoline powered tools
- Don't paint
- Don't use chemcial pesticides or fertilizers
- Don't use your gas stove if you can skip it
- Don't light matches, lighters, barbeque grills, patio torches, outside candles or cigarettes outside
- Don't burn anything, anywhere
posted by Dreama at 10:56 PM on June 9, 2005

Sell your house and move to another state/country?

Sorry, couldn't resist it.
posted by BigCalm at 4:29 AM on June 10, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Looks like I'm in the clear, having no car, no lawn, no walls that I'm going to paint, no BBQ, don't smoke, usually hang my clothes to dry anyways, no burning desire to run a marathon... Heck, I don't even have asthma.

BigCalm: Yeah, yeah. I had to ask this question because I grew up four hours north of here and, that being closer to Ottawa than Toronto, I don't remember smog alerts. Moving back there would mean sacrificing good restaurants, actual ethnic diversity, public transit, the Queen Street yarn/textile district, university, Pages Bookstore, my Toronto-loving boyfriend, living in a place where the Conservatives don't win... I'll take the smog.
posted by heatherann at 6:16 AM on June 10, 2005

Funny, I live in Los Angeles and I don't remember the last time we had a smog alert, although there were plenty when I was younger.
posted by redteam at 7:37 AM on June 10, 2005

that being closer to Ottawa than Toronto, I don't remember smog alerts.

Hah! We're setting new provincial records in the Ottawa Valley this week. I've never noticed air quality having an effect on me, even in downtown Montreal, and this week I've been feeling choked.
posted by mendel at 10:23 AM on June 10, 2005

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