A Proposal to Educate the Public and Improve Air Quality in Fairbanks
The city of Fairbanks has struggled with the problem of air pollution for over forty years. According to the
Department of Environmental Conservation (n.d.), the problem continues to grow worse each year.
Fairbanks was declared a non-attainment area by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December of 2008.
Research results posted on the Department of Environmental Conservation (n.d.) website state that the particulate
level in the air in Fairbanks often exceeds the safe air pollution levels set forth by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA). Although some people are aware of the high level of air pollution in Fairbanks, Alaska,
the citizens of Fairbanks should work with the Department of Environmental
Conservation to implement a program that will educate the public on air pollution because
Fairbanksans need to know what air pollution they are living with, they need to understand how this
pollution affects their health and environment, and they need to understand what they can do to
reduce the air pollution.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, the particulate level (PM2.5) refers to both liquid and
solid matter that is suspended in the air. This matter can be sulfate, nitrate, chemicals, dust, pollen, mold spores,
metal, and or anything else that remains suspended in the air. Air pollution is a problem because the cold air located
directly above the city is trapped beneath the warmer air above. Thus, all the pollutants emitted from vehicles,
different types of wood-burning, and power plants are retained in the air that Fairbanksans are breathing. On days that
air quality meets the standards set forth by the Department of Environmental Conservation; the air can sometimes be
very close to moderate air quality. Many people are unaware of the fact that the air the quality in Fairbanks often far
exceeds the normal safe air quality levels. The fact that many people are still unaware of the air pollution is one of the
primary reasons why the public needs to be educated about the air quality in Fairbanks. It is much more likely
that people will attempt to help fix the air pollution problem when they are aware that a problem exists. I propose a
group of about ten people, with assistance from the Department of Environmental Conservation, compile the
available information on air pollution in Fairbanks, and utilize it to educate the public. For many people, just being
aware that a problem exists is reason enough to motivate them to try to help fix or prevent more air pollution.
Not only will this education program inform the public that an air pollution problem exists in Fairbanks, but it will
also inform the public of the health and environmental issues associated with current levels of air pollution. Knowing
that air pollution could be affecting their health may also help motivate people to try and prevent air pollution.
According to research reported on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (n.d.) website, high PM2.5
levels pose a significant health risk.
In one specific instance the health of elementary school children at Woodriver Elementary was at risk due to high
PM2.5 levels where the school is located. High levels of PM2.5 have been associated with increased death rate.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation (n.d.), these particles
can get into a person’s lungs and or blood stream causing respiratory and cardiopulmonary health problems.
Implementation of a public education program will include holding informational classes for the public and posting
flyers around the Fairbanks area to inform the public of current air pollution and available educational classes. Also,
appeals will be made to local radio and television stations for non-profit space to make advertisements informing the
public about pollution in the Fairbanks area. This public education program will not only inform Fairbanksans of
the air pollution and the effect pollution has, but it will also inform the public as to how they can personally contribute
to making the air safer for everyone to breath.
One of the largest contributions that can be made to reduce the air pollution problem is for people burn dry wood
instead of green wood. The brining of dry wood does not contribute as greatly to the PM2.5 levels as does green wood.
Those individuals that use outdoor wood boilers are making a huge contribution to the air pollution levels. Air
pollution can be reduced by plugging vehicles in at lower temperatures and not letting them idle for excessive periods
Overall, a properly informed public will aid greatly in the reduction of air pollution in Fairbanks. People will also
start communicating information on air pollution to other people as they become more informed about the issue. As
people start taking action within the community and their own homes; the air pollution levels will be reduced.
Department of Environmental Conservation. (n.d.). Air Quality PM2.5 Fact/Information Sheet
2/25/10. Retrieved on March 16, 2010 from http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/HotTopics/Air
Department of Environmental Conservation. (n.d.). Wildfire Smoke/Particulate Information.
Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://www.dec.state.ak.us/air/am/smoke.htm