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Gas cap check toolkit available to organizations on campaign for clean air website

By Kathy Chaffin
A Gas Cap Check and Replacement Event is a great way for organizations and community groups to help people save money and improve local air quality.
One leaking gas cap can release up to 30 gallons of gasoline — equal to just over $100 based on current fuel costs — along with 200 pounds of evaporative emissions. Vehicle emissions are the main cause of ground-level ozone, which is a significant air pollutant.
A new toolkit on the Center for the Environment’s Campaign for Clean Air website gives instructions on holding a Gas Cap Check and Replacement Event for organizations that have the resources to purchase their own cap tester equipment as well as community groups interested in partnering with the Center’s Campaign for Clean Air staff to schedule one and receive training on using the equipment.
The estimated cost of equipment and information on how to order and operate it is also included in the toolkit posted on the Campaign’s website – www.campaignforcleanair.org – under  the tab, “Check It Out.” The toolkit also lists questions addressing the advantages of holding an event along with a checklist, permission slip, sample flier and vehicle log sheet.
The checklist, for example, includes suggestions on locations along with volunteers and partners to help with different aspects of the Gas Cap Check and Replacement Event. Law enforcement agencies, for example, can be asked to assist with traffic control.
Groups may want to combine the event with a tire pressure check to ensure that the pressure in a vehicle’s tires is appropriate for that particular make and model. This also helps with fuel economy as a vehicle’s gas mileage decreases 4 percent for every missing pound of tire pressure.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that everyone having his or her tires properly inflated would result in monetary savings of $23 billion a year. In addition, the U.S. Car Care Council estimates that 147 million gallons of gasoline could be saved each year by replacing leaking gas caps.
Shelia Armstrong, outreach coordinator for the Campaign for Clean Air, says she hopes civic and government outreach groups concerned with air quality, as well as faith-based organizations, businesses and local community organizations such as the YMCA or library, will consider holding a Gas Cap Check and Replacement Event.
The Campaign for Clean Air has held seven such events since the beginning of 2010, including gas cap checks at area community events, a Rowan County company’s wellness fair and a Kannapolis apartment complex. “Our gas cap failure rates have been higher than average,” Armstrong says.
Eighty-two motorists participated in the Campaign for Clean Air’s most recent Gas Cap Check and Replacement Event, held in the parking lot of the Cannon Memorial YMCA in Kannapolis as part of Kannapolis Kares Day on Sept. 17, according to June McDowell, Campaign intern.
Of those, McDowell says 12 of the vehicles –14.6 percent — failed the check, and the owners were offered free replacement caps. Though most of the vehicles which failed were older models, the gas caps on two 2001 models were found to be leaking.
“Once we got people to stop and let us check their gas caps,” McDowell says, “they were really excited that this could save them money. A few participants called friends and family to come out and have us check theirs, too.”
Campaign volunteer Dawn Grant says some of the participants were volunteers for the Kannapolis Kares Day community projects. Others included library patrons as well as passersby who saw signs about the event and stopped.
Grant, who is also a member of the Cabarrus Sustainability Council, says one man who stopped to get driving directions had both caps on his dual truck tested. Both were found to be leaking emissions, and he was given two new cap replacements.
After having one vehicle checked, she says some participants returned with a second car or truck to be tested. Five other volunteers helped with the event.
The free gas cap replacements given to owners of vehicles which failed the gas cap check were purchased with Campaign funds.
Campaign staff and volunteers involved in the events found that most of the participants who were aware that their gas caps could be leaking emissions had read about it on the Campaign’s information displays or in articles featured on its website or published in its newsletter or local newspapers.
Community efforts to replace leaking gas caps will ultimately help save lives by reducing air pollution, which leads to an estimated 3,000 premature deaths each year in North Carolina. Statistics also show that air pollution is responsible for 6,000 annual admissions to North Carolina hospitals for respiratory disease and 2,000 for cardiovascular disease along with the 1,500 new cases of asthma and 2,500 new cases of chronic bronchitis diagnosed annually in the state.
Asthma, lung cancer, Hodgkin’s disease and heart attacks have all been scientifically linked to traffic-related air pollution.
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The Center for the Environment at Catawba College was founded in 1996 to provide education and outreach centered on prevalent environmental challenges and to foster community-oriented sustainable solutions that can serve as a model for programs throughout the country. For more information, visit  www.centerfortheenvironment.org or www.campaignforcleanair.org.

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