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What You Can Do for Cleaner Air

Quick facts about air pollution

  • Cars and trucks produce about 198 tons of smog-forming pollutants on a summer day in the Portland and Medford regions
  • The average car in the Portland and Medford regions travels 12,500 miles a year and releases about 10,727 pounds of emissions
  • Pollution from a poorly maintained car is about 3 to 4 times that of a properly functioning car
  • Most people in the Portland-Vancouver region drive to work alone.
  • Turning off and restarting an engine uses less gasoline and produces less pollution than letting the engine idle for 10 seconds
  • Lawn and garden equipment like mowers and leaf blowers produces over 80,000 pounds of smog-forming pollutants on a summer day in the Portland-Vancouver region
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that using a two-cycle outboard motor for one hour equals driving a 1990-model-year car 100 miles
  • 80 percent of air pollution comes from our everyday activities like driving and heating with woodstoves

Facts about turning off your engine

You can reduce smog during an Air Pollution Advisory by turning your engine off when your vehicle is parked or waiting in line. By doing so, you and others around you won't have to breathe in unhealthy exhaust fumes from a vehicle that’s going nowhere.

  • Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine
  • Restarting a car many times has little impact on engine components such as the battery and starter motor
  • Idling your vehicle with the air conditioning can increase emissions by 13 percent. Your car will stay cool for a few minutes after you turn the engine off
  • Excessive idling can be hard on your engine. Because the engine isn't working at peak operating temperature, fuel doesn't undergo complete combustion. This leaves fuel residue that contaminates engine oil and makes spark plugs dirty.
  • For better fuel economy visit: Car Talk Guide

Burning gasoline creates:

  • Smog that can cause lung damage and aggravate asthma
  • Carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change
  • Several toxic air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause serious health effects, including cancer. Vehicle exhaust contains benzene, acetaldehyde, butadiene and formaldehyde. National studies estimate that levels of these toxic air pollutants in the Portland region exceed health-based benchmarks that are guidelines for safe levels.
  • About 40 to 50 percent of toxic air pollutants in Oregon come from vehicle exhaust, while large industries are responsible for only about 5 to 8 percent of the pollutants.
When we take action in response to an air pollution advisory, we help protect our health and ensure compliance with federal health standards for air pollution. There are a number of things that you and your families, as individuals, can do to keep the air you breathe cleaner. Here are some tips to reduce pollution from cars, woodstoves, mowers, paint and aerosol sprays.

What you can do for cleaner air


  • Use your woodstove less. Don't burn on poor air quality days. Use an alternative source of heat. If a woodstove is your only sources of heat, see these tips in our Wood smoke Factsheet to burn as cleanly as possible.
  • For further information on woodstoves visit our Woodstove program page.


  • Refuel vehicles in the cooler evening hours and avoid spilling gasoline. Gasoline vapors released during refueling contribute to ozone formation. When released early in the day, vapors are "cooked" in the sunlight and turn into ozone/smog. The sunlight is less intense by early evening, so fewer vapors turn into ozone.
  • Wait until the day cools off to use gasoline-powered mowers and garden equipment.
  • Cut down the use of spray pesticides. Any material sprayed onto a lawn can end up in the air and add to the toxics in the air. Avoid spraying on a hot or windy day and look into other methods that require less pesticide use.

Any season

  • Turn off the engine if your vehicle is parked or waiting in line for more than 10 seconds and it is safe to do so: it saves gasoline, engine wear and air quality. Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.
  • Drive less. Plan errands ahead to get all the running around done in one trip or take the bus.
  • Use a bike or walk.
  • Carpool, take the bus, or use other public transportation.
  • Pack a lunch. At lunch time, brown-bag, use the cafeteria or walk to a restaurant.
  • Telecommute or teleconference. Working at home and using the phone saves fuel and time.
  • Use manual tools that don't require gasoline or electric engines.
  • Avoid using hair spray, air freshener, solvents and oil based paint. These contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are smog-forming chemicals.
  • Use natural gas or propane barbecues, or use electric charcoal lighters or chimney starters instead of charcoal lighter fluids.
  • Conserve electricity. Do not overcool or overheat your home. Turn off lights and appliances that are not in use. Wash clothes and dishes with full loads and close blinds during the day to keep the house cooler

Long term actions

  • Support Ecological Businesses. Patronize certified businesses that minimize their impact on the environment. In Oregon there are currently certified businesses in car repair, body shops, and landscaping.
  • Buy Renewable Power. Renewable power reduces our dependence on oil and coal and encourages investment in cleaner energy solutions. Contact your electricity provider to investigate your greener options: PGE, Pacific Power, Energy Trust of Oregon
  • Buy energy efficient appliances. Energy Star rated products are designed to use less energy and pollute less.
  • Use zero or low VOC paint. Paints and finishes that are low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) give off less formaldehyde and heavy metals than normal paint.
  • Change your landscaping to reduce mowing time. Use low-maintenance turf grasses or grass/flower seed mixtures that grow slowly and require less mowing. Check with your local agricultural extension service or lawn and garden center about what is appropriate for your region.
  • Maintain your equipment. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for maintenance. Change oil and clean or replace air filters regularly. Use the proper fuel/oil mixture in two-stroke equipment. Get periodic tune-ups, maintain sharp mower blades, and keep the underside of the deck clean. Winterize equipment each fall.
  • Recycle old equipment. Instead of selling or giving away your old lawn and garden power tools, take them to a recycling center where they can be converted into raw material for use in cleaner equipment and other products.
  • Consider cleaner equipment. Ask your dealer about the new, cleaner gasoline equipment entering the marketplace. Propane and solar options are also available for some types of equipment. Electrically powered lawn and garden tools produce essentially no pollution from exhaust emissions or through fuel evaporation.
  • When purchasing a vehicle: Check EPA's Fuel Economy Guide to see how the vehicle ranks in terms of fuel efficiency. Or, consider purchasing a hybrid-electric vehicle.