|Sustainability Plan / Air Quality / Introduction|
Achieving and maintaining good air quality is crucial to the public health and economic vitality of San Francisco. As a leader in developing and implementing policies to support good air quality, San Francisco should aim to provide its residents and visitors with the benefits of clean air and a healthy environment at home, at work and at play. By setting standards that further the achievement of global sustainability, the City of San Francisco stands to become a model of a responsible global city.
The surrounding air, both outdoors and indoors, has the potential to affect human health, attitudes, productivity, and people’s ability to enjoy their lives. It is important to maintain the quality of the outdoor air since all life forms depend on it, and since the quality of indoor air is dependent on that of the outdoors. In addition, a recent study reveals that Americans spend 90% of their lives indoors, with the result that there is now an increased awareness of the importance of the quality of the indoor air.
Automobiles are the major source of air pollution in California, and measures must be taken to reduce public dependence on gasoline-fueled personal vehicles as a primary means of transportation. Advances are being made in the design of alternatively fueled vehicles, which reduce tail-pipe emissions, and there are many accommodations that San Francisco could make to encourage less-polluting modes of transportation.
In addition, environmental tobacco smoke, fireplaces, barbecues, construction practices, improper building ventilation and many industrial activities have a negative impact on the quality of the air in San Francisco. Notable examples of stationary sources of pollution in the City of San Francisco include roof tar, power-transmitting stations, dry cleaning establishments (which emit perchlorethylene), and asphalt paving.
The economic health of the City of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area is dependent on good air quality. Acids from air pollution corrode metals, building exteriors, and painted surfaces. As an esthetic matter, clear air is crucial for tourism as well as for attracting and keeping other employment centers in the Bay Area. Creating and maintaining superior air-quality conditions provides a high quality of life and makes good business sense.
In addition, nitrogen oxides from combustion-related air pollution make up a surprisingly large one-third of total sources of ocean pollution. The presence of excess nitrogen in standing bodies of water leads to runaway growth of algae, which blocks sunlight and suffocates fish. In addition, a growing opinion in the scientific community blames airborne chemicals for the increasingly violent and unpredictable weather being experienced around the world, leading to undefined, but potentially enormous costs. The international insurance industry has recognized this risk to its livelihood by establishing an emergency task force on global climate change.
Many complex and interrelated factors affect indoor air quality. These factors involve the emission of odors, particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs), and radon into the air. Examples of such factors include the outdoor air quality; emissions from construction, building materials, indoor occupant activities, building maintenance products, cleaning products, personal care products, and equipment (computers, copy machines, etc.); molds and mildew; building ventilation systems; radon emissions from below-grade rock; and environmental tobacco smoke.
Research is increasingly showing links between these factors and human health. Particulates, VOCs, MVOCs and radon can have a negative impact on human health. Some of these impacts have short-term and reversible health effects, while others cause more serious, long-lasting and even life-threatening health effects. Health problems that may result from indoor air quality are classified as follows:
Unacceptable indoor air quality also carries an economic impact.
Costs due to lost productivity when employees are affected by sick building syndrome
are significant to local companies. Furthermore, when building occupants experience
sick building syndrome or building-related illness, the building owners and responsible
design professionals may be exposed to increased liability. Moreover, when poor air
quality has a negative impact on the health of residents, there are increased demands
on the health care system, which ultimately translates into increased health care
costs for all businesses and residents.