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Colorado is asking people not to use their cars

Colorado has asked motorists to leave their cars at home when they hit the road in an effort to address poor air quality.

The state issued an “Ozone Action Day Alert” on Sunday afternoon, saying it will remain in effect until “at least” 4pm on Monday. Drivers were asked not to use their gasoline and diesel vehicles to help control pollution and “reduce the impact” on air quality, officials said. Poor air quality can cause respiratory or breathing problems, the warning said.

Ozone is a gas that occurs both above the earth and at ground level. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere protects the planet from the sun’s radiation, but ozone that forms at ground level – caused by a chemical reaction in sunlight between pollutants such as car exhaust and power plant emissions – is a harmful air pollutant .

“Ozone in the air we breathe can harm our health, especially on hot sunny days when ozone can reach unhealthy levels,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “People most at risk of harm from breathing air containing ozone include people with asthma.”

Exhaust gases
Stock image of a car’s exhaust fumes emitting fumes. Drivers in Colorado have been asked not to use their cars due to poor air quality.

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The warning in Colorado was shared by the National Weather Service on its website this week. It comes ahead of the government agency’s plans for its Colorado offices to “officially begin issuing air quality alerts in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).”

The partnership will officially launch next month, on July 15, the agency said, adding, “When CDPHE issues an ozone action day or other alerts, the NWS will communicate that information to the public through our air quality alert.”

Colorado’s Ozone Action Day Alert became “effective for the Front Range Urban Corridor,” with the plea covering drivers in Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, western Arapahoe, western Adams, Broomfield, Boulder, Larimer and Weld Counties. But the call is not only aimed at motorists:

“Active children and adults, and people with lung diseases such as asthma, should reduce prolonged or strenuous exercise outdoors,” the warning said.

Colorado also publicized news of Monday’s driving warning with an article on the state government website, and published posts on social media sites such as X (formerly Twitter) of the CDPHE’s Air Pollution Control Division.

“Ozone could reach the Unhealthy category for sensitive groups on Sunday and Monday,” an X post said. “The highest concentrations are expected in the SW and W portions of the Denver Metro area, including the foothills. Reduce outdoor exertion in these areas to protect your health.”

Newsweek has contacted the CDPHE by email for more information and comment.

The warning in Colorado follows similar pleas to motorists made recently by several other states, urging car owners in California and Texas to temporarily avoid driving gasoline and diesel vehicles and refrain from visiting gas stations, because emissions can worsen air quality. Officials in Indiana and Alabama also have their eyes on road users as they try to address the problem.