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Free Resources Help Protect Health as Summer Smog Season Begins

Release Date: 05/05/2014
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Early May traditionally marks the beginning of the summer smog season. Free resources available from EPA and state environmental agencies can help people easily find out about local air quality to protect health for themselves and their families.

With warmer weather, New England will likely experience higher rates of ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog). People should take health precautions when smog levels are high.

Air quality forecasts are issued daily by the New England state air agencies. These forecasts are available each day at EPA’s web site http://www.epa.gov/ne/aqi. Also available on this web site, is the free 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. In addition, people can also stay informed about air quality in the New England states by following EPA on Twitter, at www.twitter.com/EPAnewengland .

“Although we have made significant progress in cleaning up New England’s atmosphere, ozone air pollution remains a public health threat, especially in southern New England," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office.

Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to air pollutants. When air quality is predicted to be unhealthy, EPA and the states will announce an air quality alert for the affected areas. 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 to work;
- combine errands or car-pool to reduce driving time and mileage;
- use less electricity, by turning air conditioning to a higher temperature setting;
- turn off lights, TVs, radios and computers when they are not being used;
- 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. Small engines are not fuel efficient and emit fumes that help form ozone.

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.

Warm summer temperatures aid in the formation of ground-level ozone. 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.

The Federal Clean Air Act has led to significant improvements in ozone air quality over the past 30 years and EPA and the states continue 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 emission standards. These requirements have resulted in new vehicles that are 80 to 90 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 finalized even tighter standards for future new cars, sold after 2017. The automobile and gasoline rule, known as Tier 3, will help lower automobile pollution by a significant margin. Compared to current automobile standards, the Tier 3 emissions standards for cars represent an additional 80% reduction of ozone causing pollution when compared to today’s average.

Free Air Quality Resources:

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

Air Quality Forecasts and Alert program http://www.epa.gov/ne/aqi

Ozone exceedance list http://www.epa.gov/ne/airquality/o3exceed-14.html

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