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Free Tools Available to Protect Health as Summer Smog Season Starts

Release Date: 05/01/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – May 1, 2013) – With the onset of warmer weather, EPA urges New Englanders to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog), and take health precautions when smog levels are high.

Air quality forecasts are issued daily by the New England state air agencies. In cooperation with the New England states, EPA has set up an “Air Quality Alerts” system, provided free through the EnviroFlash program, where people can sign up to receive e-mails or text messages when high concentrations of ground-level ozone or fine particles are predicted in their area. Daily air quality forecasts are available each day at EPA’s air quality web site for New England. People can also stay informed about air quality in New England states by following EPA New England on Twitter.

“Air pollution is a significant public health concern in New England," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “New Englanders should pay close attention to air quality alerts and limit strenuous outdoor activity on air quality alert days. Also, when air quality is poor, we can all take simple actions to help reduce the amount of pollution being released into the air.”

Warm summer temperatures aid in the formation of ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution. In 2008, EPA strengthened the ozone air quality health standard to 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis. Air quality alerts are issued when ozone concentrations exceed, or are predicted to exceed, this level.

Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to air pollutants, including children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma. When air quality is predicted to be unhealthy, EPA and the states will announce an air quality alert for the affected areas. EPA recommends that people in these areas limit strenuous outdoor activity and EPA asks that on these days, citizens and businesses take actions that will help reduce air pollution and protect the public health. Everyone can help reduce air pollution by taking the following steps:

- use public transportation or walk whenever possible;
- combine errands and car-pool to reduce driving time and mileage;
- use less electricity by turning air conditioning to a higher temperature setting, and turning off lights, TVs, radios and computers when they are not being used; and
- avoid using small gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, power-washers, generators, string trimmers, compressors and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.

Cars, motorcycles, trucks, and buses are a primary source of the pollutants that make smog. Fossil fuel burning at electric generating stations, particularly on hot days, also generate smog-forming pollution. Other industries, as well as smaller sources, such as gasoline stations and print shops, also contribute to smog. In addition, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as gasoline-powered yard and garden equipment, also contribute to smog formation.

The Clean Air Act has led to significant improvements in ozone air quality over the past 30 years and EPA continues to take steps to further reduce air pollution. For example, since 2004, new cars, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and mini-vans are meeting stringent new emission standards. The requirements have resulted in new vehicles that are 77 to 95 percent cleaner than older models. Also, EPA’s standards for new (starting with model year 2007) diesel trucks and buses are estimated to reduce NOx and fine particle emissions by up to 95 percent.

In addition, EPA has recently proposed even tighter standards for future new cars and trucks. The automobile rule, known as Tier 3, will help lower automobile pollution by a significant margin. Starting in 2017, Tier 3 would set new vehicle emissions standards and lower the sulfur content of gasoline. Compared to current automobile standards, the proposed tailpipe standards for cars represent approximately an additional 80% reduction from today’s fleet average for ozone causing pollution.

Free Air Quality Resources:

EPA’s air quality web site for New England (http://www.epa.gov/ne/aqi)

Air Quality Awareness Week (http://www.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/index.html)

Follow EPA New England on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/EPAnewengland)

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Learn More about the Latest EPA News & Events in New England (http://www.epa.gov/region1/newsevents/index.html)

Follow EPA New England on Twitter (http://twitter.com/epanewengland)

More info on EPA's Environmental Results in New England (http://www.epa.gov/region1/results/index.html)