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Poor Air Quality Predicted for Sections of New England for Thursday, July 21, 2011

Release Date: 07/20/2011
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – July 20, 2011) – Unhealthy air quality is predicted for all of Connecticut; central and northeastern Massachusetts, including the cities of Springfield and Worcester; southwestern New Hampshire; and southern coastal Maine due to ground-level ozone.

“When we have very hot weather and conditions that result in unhealthy air quality, we ask New England citizens to help reduce emissions to the air,” said Curt Spalding, Administrator of EPA’s New England office. “When possible, people should take public transit and carpool.  Also, when air quality is unhealthy EPA and the medical community suggest that people limit their strenuous outdoor activity.”

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. In January, EPA proposed to strengthen the ozone standard even further. A final decision is scheduled for August.  So far this year, there have been 11 days in New England when ozone concentrations have exceeded the new 2008 ozone standard. (A preliminary list of this summer’s unhealthy readings can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-11.html)

Due to tomorrow’s forecast of hot weather, the demand for electricity in New England is also forecast to reach high load levels. Given the air quality 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.

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

Ground-level ozone (smog) forms when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen interact in the presence of sunlight. Cars, trucks and buses give off the majority of the pollution that makes smog.  Fossil fuel burning at electric powerplants, particularly on hot days, emits smog-making pollution. Gasoline stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment also add significantly to the ozone smog. 

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

- Using public transportation, car pooling and/or combining trips;

- Refueling cars at night to reduce gasoline vapors getting into the air during the   daytime when the sun can cook the vapors and form ozone;

- Avoiding the use of small gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, and leaf blowers.

EPA and the New England states provide real-time ozone data and air quality forecasts at www.epa.gov/ne/aqi  People can also sign up at this web site to receive free air quality alerts by e-mail when poor air quality is predicted in their area.

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