Garfield County Public Health encourages mowing down pollution |

Garfield County Public Health encourages mowing down pollution

Garfield County Environmental Health Department
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Editor’s note: In recognition of National Air Quality Awareness week, Garfield, Eagle, Mesa and Pitkin counties, the city of Aspen, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working together to raise awareness about indoor and outdoor air quality issues, encouraging communities to “share the air.”

Running an older lawnmower for one hour on a hot summer day can create almost as much air pollution as driving from Vail to Grand Junction, according to Ray Merry of Eagle County Environmental Health.

People don’t often think about air pollution and mowing the lawn. However, today’s small engines (like those in a lawn mower) emit high levels of carbon monoxide and pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone.

Jonathan Godes wasn’t looking to make an “environmental statement” when he found his push reel mower at a garage sale for $15. He just thought it would be fun.

“I thought I would mow with it a few times to see how it worked,” he said.

Now he uses it exclusively on his 2,000-square-foot lawn.

“It takes me less time to mow than it did with my old gas-powered mower. I don’t have to spend time with the gas or making sure my machine works. Trying to push a lawnmower up a hill was a pain, but my reel mower only weighs 10 pounds, so it is easier to push. I can come home for lunch and knock out my yard because I can go back without smelling like fumes.”

When it comes to mowing the lawn, Merry noted that the person mowing is breathing the fumes emitted from the mower.

Ozone is either protective or harmful depending upon where it is found. Ground-level ozone comes from car and industrial pollutants, forming when these chemicals mix with sunlight.

“Children and the elderly are the most at risk for breathing complications from ozone,” said Eagle County Medical Officer Dr. Drew Warner.

“Exposure to ozone can have immediate and longer term effects on you and your family. It can worsen respiratory conditions like asthma, reduce lung function and capacity for exercise, and cause coughing and chest pains,” he said.

Residents can check local air quality reports to see how clean or polluted the air is on any given day. Ozone is one of the pollutants reported.

Merry said avoiding certain activities during peak sun hours can help reduce ozone emissions.

“Maintaining your lawn equipment, like sharpening blades and regularly changing the oil and filters, can reduce emissions by 50 percent,” he said.

He also recommends that people avoid ozone-producing activities such as pumping gas, mowing, or using outdoor grills during the day. He also encourages people to try to avoid spilling gasoline, and to keep car engines tuned and tires properly inflated.

To check the air quality in Garfield County, log on to or call the Health Department at 625-5200.

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