The year's Spare the Air season in the Bay Area has ended with a record-breaking number of alerts, regional air quality officials said.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued 27 unhealthy air quality alerts during the summer season, two more than the record set in 1996. The summer Spare the Air season generally runs between April and October.
Air district officials attributed this year's record number in part to a series of heat waves, smoke from wildfires and the ever-increasing traffic in the region. On 15 days, the level of smog exceeded the federal standard for healthy air.
District spokesman Aaron Richardson said summertime smog in the Bay Area is usually short in duration.
Short-term exposure can cause throat irritation, chest pain and congestion, trigger asthma, inflame the lining of the lungs and worsen bronchitis and emphysema.
Long-term exposure, however, can cause the formation of asthma, Richardson said.
Children, seniors and people with respiratory and heart conditions are especially susceptible to harm from smog, according to the air district.
When a summer Spare the Air alert is issued, residents and visitors are encouraged to exercise in the morning when the level of smog is lower.
To keep the air cleaner, air district officials also encourage drivers to find other ways to travel besides driving alone. That could mean biking, walking, carpooling or taking transit.
Transportation is the largest source of smog in the Bay Area and single-occupancy vehicles are the main contributor, according to the air district.
This year is the Spare the Air program's 25th year of increasing the awareness of air quality and improving Bay Area air.
Workers in the Bay Area are encouraged to talk to a human resources specialist at their company to find out about any commuter benefits available. All employers in the air district's jurisdiction with 50 or more full-time employees are required to offer commuter benefits to their workers.
Residents can find out when the air district issues a Spare the Air alert by registering for email alerts at sparetheair.org, calling (800) HELP-AIR, downloading the Spare the Air smartphone app or by connecting with the district on Facebook or Twitter.