UPDATE: Health District rescinds Stage 1 Air Quality Emergency Episode

Jul 17, 2023

July 17, 2023 Update: The Emergency Episode has been rescinded. Air Quality is projected to be good to moderate the week of July 17, 2023.

Editor’s Note: The below information is no longer accurate as the Emergency Episode was rescinded on Monday, July 17, 2023.

Original Press Release: 

July 13, 2023. Reno/Sparks, Nev.– The Health Officer for the Washoe County Health District has issued a Stage 1 Emergency Episode. The ground-level ozone air quality index (AQI) for the Reno-Sparks area has reached Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (USG) and is expected to be USG in the afternoons between 12-5PM through the weekend.

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The Stage 1 Emergency Episode was issued because the 8-hour ozone AQI in the afternoon is expected to be above 100 for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Those in sensitive groups including children, older adults, very active adults, and those with lung disease should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.

Ground-level ozone, also known as “smog,” is a summertime pollutant of concern in Washoe County. Ground-level ozone is created by the chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. While ozone is produced every day, normal temperatures and steady winds keep it from building up to unhealthy concentrations. Hot, calm, sunny summer days are the conditions needed to make this harmful air pollutant. Ozone is typically highest in the afternoon and not a concern in the early mornings and late evenings.

Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ground level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.

Motor vehicles are the largest source of NOx and VOCs in Washoe County. Unlike wildfire smoke, ground-level ozone levels can be reduced through local actions including:

  • Combining errands to reduce vehicle trips
  • Limiting engine idling
  • Refueling vehicle or gas cans after dusk
  • Carpooling or using public transportation
  • Keeping your vehicle tuned up and tires properly inflated
  • Avoiding “topping off” your vehicle’s gas tank.
  • Avoiding use of gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment especially in the afternoons.
  • Properly sealing cleaners, paints, and other chemicals
  • Conserving energy

AQMD can issue a Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and Stage 4 Emergency Episode with the Stage 4 being the most severe. More information on the stages can be found here. The Emergency Episode rule was recently revised and adopted by the District Board of Health on July 22, 2021. An air pollution Emergency Episode for Washoe County is not a state of emergency as issued by the Governor or President. The main purposes of an Emergency Episode are to notify the public of the air pollution levels, give recommendations to reduce exposure, and reduce or stop emissions from a local source if it is determined to be significantly contributing to the Emergency Episode. Visit www.OurCleanAir.com for additional information on the Air Quality Management Division.

The Washoe County Health District is nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board and has jurisdiction over all public health matters in Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County through the policy-making Washoe County District Board of Health. The District consists of five divisions: Administrative Health Services, Air Quality Management, Community and Clinical Health Services, Environmental Health Services and Epidemiology & Public Health Preparedness. More info can be found here.