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High Ozone Levels and Poor Air Quality Predicted for parts of Connecticut, Central Massachusetts and coastal N.H. on Friday Aug. 3

Release Date: 08/02/2012
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – August 2, 2012) – Unhealthy air quality is expected for most of Connecticut, central Massachusetts, and into coastal New Hampshire. The forecast for hot weather tomorrow is also expected to cause the demand for electricity in New England to reach high load levels.

“With more very hot summer weather coming tomorrow, EPA and the State environmental agencies are predicting unhealthy air quality in parts of New England,” said Curt Spalding, Administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “Everybody can help reduce smog-forming emissions by driving less, by using public transportation, and by setting air conditioner thermostats a few degrees higher.”

Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases, and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection.  When ozone levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.

Ground-level ozone forms when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen (ozone precursors) interact in the presence of strong sunlight. Cars, trucks and buses give off the majority of the pollution create ozone.  Burning fossil fuels at electric generating units, particularly on hot days, also emit ozone precursors. Gasoline stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment also add significantly to the ozone problem. 

When ozone is forecast to be unhealthy, EPA asks the public to take action. The public can help reduce ozone by:

- Using public transportation, car pooling and/or combining trips;
- Avoiding the use of small gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers and tractors, chain saws, power washers, string trimmers and leaf blowers.

Due to tomorrow’s forecast of hot weather, the demand for electricity in New England is forecast to reach high load levels. Given the ozone and high load forecasts, EPA is asking homeowners and employers to make a special effort to reduce their electricity consumption. EPA asks employers to consider asking their employees to dress casually and turn their air conditioning to a higher temperature setting and turn off any unnecessary lights and computers when not in use.  Homeowners also are urged to turn their air conditioner to a higher temperature setting, turn off unnecessary lights and appliances, such as televisions, computers, or lights during the day, and to defer household activities like laundry until later hours.

The ozone standard is 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. So far this year, there have been 18 days in New England when ozone concentrations have exceeded the standard. (A preliminary list of this summer’s unhealthy readings can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-12.html)

EPA and the New England states provide real-time ozone data and air quality forecasts at www.epa.gov/ne/aqi. This website can also be used to sign up to receive free air quality alerts by e-mail when poor air quality is predicted for a particular area. National real-time air quality data from AirNow is also available on smart phones with free iPhone and Android apps, available for download at http://www.airnow.gov/.

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