This winter, turn toward cleaner air

This time of year, people can find it tempting to idle while they warm up their cars. But warming up just a short time is better for a car’s engine – today’s engines warm up in less than 30 seconds – and better for the air we all breathe. It will also save money on wasted fuel, and it’s the law. Minneapolis ordinance limits most idling to three minutes. Illegal idling can carry a fine of $200.

If the air temperature outside is colder than zero, idling is allowed for 15 minutes for the comfort and safety of the driver or passengers. But keep in mind that leaving a car unattended with a key in the ignition is also against the law.

Vehicle motors release particulate matter, dirt, nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air. Chemicals in vehicle exhaust are linked to increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease and asthma and are the major source of human-caused climate change. Exhaust from an idling car carries a higher load of pollutants than a moving car, so reducing unnecessary idling is one easy way we can all do something to improve air quality. Children are especially vulnerable to vehicle air pollution because their lungs are still developing, and they inhale more pounds of pollution per pound of body weight than adults do.

If you see buses or several vehicles idling at a school, theater or other place, report it to 311 with the time, place and description of the vehicles.

Most air pollution comes from cars and trucks releasing fossil fuel exhaust. Air quality in Minneapolis is among the best of large metropolitan areas in the U.S., and its air quality has been improving thanks to more efficient cars and other pollution control methods. Still, the area has air quality issues that contribute to health problems such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease. For more information about air quality in Minneapolis, visit the City's website.

Published Feb. 6, 2013