Spare The Air Season is Here

The Sacramento region’s 24th Spare The Air season is here! Summer heat is fast approaching and with that comes the potential for smog, known as ground-level ozone. You’re urged to pay attention to the daily air quality forecast to know what you’re breathing and protect your health. Be ready to drive less to reduce pollution when you hear a Spare The Air alert this summer.

Air pollution can cause health problems for everyone. According to the California Department of Public Health, more than 350,000 people in the Sacramento region have asthma, which can be worsened by ground-level ozone pollution. Poor air quality can affect children more than adults, as children’s lungs are still developing and they breathe more rapidly than adults do, which increases their exposure.

The majority of our summer pollution is caused by oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coming from mobile sources. This includes cars, trucks, construction equipment and agricultural equipment. It’s important to reduce driving to reduce pollution.

A Sacramento region-wide Spare The Air alert is issued when air pollution levels are forecast to meet or exceed 126 on the Air Quality Index (AQI). For more information, visit

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Spare The Air?
Spare The Air is a public education campaign that runs in the Sacramento region from May 1 through October 31. Coordinated by the Sac Metro Air District, on behalf of the air districts of the region, Spare The Air informs the region’s residents about the dangerous health effects of air pollution, provides tips to reduce it and urges residents to reduce driving when a Spare The Air alert is issued.

When is a Spare The Air alert issued?
A Spare The Air alert is issued when ground-level ozone (smog) is forecast to meet or exceed 126 on the Air Quality Index (AQI).

What is the Air Quality Index?
The Air Quality Index (AQI) was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It’s used nationwide to help you understand what local air quality means to your health. The higher the AQI value, the greater the amount of air pollution, which means the greater the health concerns. The AQI is a great tool for you to use to determine if you can enjoy the outdoors as usual, or if you should consider planning an indoor activity to reduce exposure to air pollution.

What are the health effects of air pollution?
Anyone – even healthy people – can experience health impacts from air pollution, including respiratory irritation or breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities. Your actual risk of adverse effects depends on your current health status, the pollutant type and concentration, and the length of your exposure.

High air pollution levels can cause immediate health problems, including:

  • Aggravated cardiovascular and respiratory illness
  • Added stress to heart and lungs, which must work harder to supply the body with oxygen
  • Damaged cells in the respiratory system

Long-term exposure to polluted air can have permanent health effects, such as:

  • Accelerated aging of the lungs
  • Loss of lung capacity and decreased lung function
  • Development of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly cancer
  • Shortened life span

Who is most vulnerable to poor air quality?
Those most susceptible to severe health problems from air pollution are:

  • Individuals with heart disease, coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure
  • Individuals with lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pregnant women
  • Outdoor workers
  • Older adults and the elderly
  • Children under age 14
  • Athletes who exercise vigorously outdoors

People in these groups may experience health impacts at lower air pollution levels, or their health effects may be of greater intensity.

How can air pollution impact you?

  • Aggravated respiratory disease such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma
  • Lung damage, even after symptoms such as coughing or a sore throat disappear
  • Wheezing, chest pain, dry throat, headache or nausea
  • Reduced resistance to infections
  • Increased fatigue
  • Weakened athletic performance

What are some easy ways to improve air quality?
Here’s what you can do:

  1. Reduce driving, especially on Spare The Air days
  2. Carpool to work and other activities
  3. Walk, bike or take transit
  4. Bring your lunch to work
  5. Use an electric starter or chimney briquette starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid to start your barbecue
  6. Use electric-powered tools and lawn/garden equipment
  7. Refuel after the sun goes down
  8. Buy or lease a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle
  9. Work from home

How can I receive Spare The Air alerts?

  • Download the FREE Sacramento Region Air Quality app, available in all app stores, including iPad
  • Follow on Twitter @AQMD
  • Visit
  • Sign up to get daily Air Alert emails at
  • Read The Sacramento Bee’s weather page
  • Call 916-874-4801

Where can I get more information?
Contact Sac Metro Air District at 1-800-880-9025, or visit