Simple steps can protect Hoosiers from ozone dangers


Noah Flanigan didn’t realize he would be rewarded for simply parking his car to enjoy lunch inside of the Hausfeldt Lane McDonald’s in New Albany.

But the Indiana University Southeast student received a Smog Watch T-shirt, courtesy of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for not waiting in the drive-thru line at the fast-food restaurant.

It’s one of many minuscule steps people can take to be a “solution to pollution,” according to Amy Bukarica, environmental scientist for IDEM.

Flanigan — a New Albany resident — was one of several people that IDEM staff spoke with Monday.

“We’re here to remind people that ozone season begins on May 1, and that there are some simple steps they can do to improve Indiana’s air quality,” she said.

Ground-level ozone forms when sunlight and hot weather bake vehicle exhaust, emissions and gasoline vapors. While necessary in the upper atmosphere, ozone is a respiratory irritant at ground level that can make breathing difficult, Bukarica said.

Not leaving your engine idling in a lengthy drive-thru line is one way to combat the problem.

“It makes sense for people to come inside instead of waiting in line for a soft drink,” Flanigan said.

The agency put on a similar event last year in Evansville, and staff are working throughout Indiana this week to promote the message. Bukarica said they usually target fast-food restaurants because of the amount of drivers waiting in the drive-thru line.

“Not only are we trying to entice people to come inside when they see our giveaways and want to see what it’s all about, but we’re just rewarding people who park and go inside anyway,” she said.

Bukarica was joined by other IDEM staff, including Public Information Officer Amber Finkelstein and Senior Environmental Manager Christopher Pedersen, as they handed out buttons, pens and air fresheners encouraging pollution awareness.

The staff discussed tips such as conserving energy, carpooling and using public transportation with interested McDonald’s customers. Bukarica said other ways people can pitch-in is using water-based paints and solvents and mowing the lawn after 7 p.m.

“We just try to reinforce the message. Hopefully, people will learn some things that they didn’t know would have such a big impact,” Bukarica said.

Hot and sunny days usually equate to an air-quality action day. The agency especially encourages residents to be mindful of ozone impact on such days. People can find out more about them by visiting the Web site

Later in the day, the IDEM staff visited Green Valley Elementary School to explain to students what the building on their campus is that they never get to go inside.

IDEM uses the facility to house ozone-monitoring equipment, where levels are checked daily.

“They are probably pretty curious to learn what’s inside there,” Bukarica said.





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