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Unhealthy Air Quality Predicted to Continue in Southern New England on Wednesday As Heat Persists

Release Date: 08/01/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – August 1, 2006) – Elevated levels of ground-level ozone are predicted for coastal Connecticut, southeastern coastal Massachusetts (including the Cape and Islands), and all of Rhode Island for Wednesday, August 2. In addition, particle pollution is forecast to be elevated in southern New England.

The forecast of hot weather is also expected to cause the demand for electricity in New England to reach high load levels, meaning businesses and individuals can help reduce demand by keeping air conditioning thermostats a few degrees warmer.

“Significant portions of New England will continue to experience unhealthy air quality tomorrow as this heat wave persists," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England regional office. "We remind people to take steps to help our air quality - by driving less, by using public transportation and by setting air conditioner thermostats a few degrees higher. Everybody can help reduce smog-forming emissions.”

When smog levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.
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. Exposure to elevated particulate levels can increase the likelihood of respiratory symptoms in sensitive individuals; aggravate heart or lung disease, and cause premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly.

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. Burning fossil fuel at electric power plants, particularly on hot days, gives off a lot of 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. Major sources of particulate pollution are factories, power plants, trash incinerators, motor vehicles, construction activity, and fires.

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 cut down on gasoline vapors getting into the air during day light hours when the sun can cook the vapors and form ozone;

- Avoiding the use of gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, leaf blowers on unhealthy air days;

- Setting air conditioning thermostats a few degrees higher to help reduce electrical demand through the region.

Due to the 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. Employers may consider asking employees to dress casually and turn their air conditioning to a higher temperature setting. Businesses and homeowners can help by turning off any unnecessary lights, computers and appliances when not in use.

EPA considers ground-level ozone to be unhealthy when average concentrations exceed 0.08 parts per million over an eight-hour period. So far this year, there have been 12 days when ozone monitors in New England have recorded concentrations above this level. (A preliminary list of the unhealthy readings recorded so far this summer is available (epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-06.html)

In order to help New England residents prepare for poor air quality this summer, EPA and the New England states provide real-time ozone data and air quality forecasts (epa.gov/ne/aqi/index.html) . People can also sign up to receive air quality alerts (epa.gov/ne/airquality/smogalrt.html) from EPA’s New England office.

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