September 1997 - VolumeI V, Issue 9

Clean Air from Lawns

David M. Kopec, Extension Turfgrass Specialist

We all know that lawns give life sustaining oxygen to the atmosphere, but what about the issues of ozone and particulate matter (PM) contributions? The federal EPA has been developing proposed new guidelines for air quality improvement standards, particularly for ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM) contaminating sources. These standards would affect everything from lawn mowing (with gas mowers) to back-yard barbeques.

On July 18 of this year, the EPA adopted the controversial new air quality standard on "ground ozone" and "PM" limits. Previous standards allowed emission limits of 120 parts per billions (ppb) over a one hour period, while the new eight hour standard emission limits are set at a one hour "average" of 80 ppb threshold. The particle size limit is detectable to 2.5 microns. The EPA is not set up to measure these new standards, so the compliance monitory period may not start for an estimated 5-6 years. The EPA also has planned a program that allows for extra time and flexibility in order to meet the new standards.

It is thought that communities that do not eventually meet these standards will need to adopt local programs to reduce these types of air pollution. Some groups have targeted lawn mowers as a possibility. I would guess that beating a rug on a clothesline could get you life in prison!

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