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Poor Air Quality for New England Expected to Continue on Wednesday, August 14

Release Date: 08/13/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is predicting unhealthy air quality to continue Wednesday, August 14, with elevated levels of ground-level ozone predicted for Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and southern portions of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

There are also unhealthy levels of fine particulates across portions of southern New England today that are expected to continue into tomorrow.

Levels of ground-level ozone are especially high today – affecting all individuals – in southwestern and central Connecticut, central and eastern Massachusetts, and southern New Hampshire. (Animated Ozone Maps showing today's concentrations are available at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/dailyozone/ozone_animation.html) These high levels are expected in the same areas tomorrow.

Some areas in New England may see continuing unhealthy air on Thursday as the hot weather continues. An ozone forecast for Thursday will be available after 4 p.m. on Wednesday at http://www.epa.gov/region01/aqi.

Unhealthy air in New England started on Saturday with unhealthy levels recorded in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Unhealthy levels were also recorded throughout southern New England on Sunday and Monday and are continuing today.

"When smog levels are up, residents should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity,"said Robert W. Varney, administrator of EPA's New England office. "At the levels expected tomorrow, this warning is for all individuals, 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.

When particulate concentrations in the ambient air are elevated, people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should limit prolonged exertion. In addition, all people should limit strenuous outdoor activity during the afternoon and early evening hours, when ozone levels are highest.

Ground-level ozone (smog) is formed 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, give off a lot of smog-making pollution. Gas stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment also add significantly to the ozone smog.

Outside of the winter, major sources of particulate pollution are factories, power plants, trash incinerators, motor vehicles, construction activity, fires, and natural windblown dust.

Ground level ozone, the main ingredient of smog, is unhealthy when average concentrations exceed 0.08 parts per million over an eight-hour period. So far this year, there have been 34 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 can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region01/airquality/o3exceed-02.html.)

Citizens can sign up at http://www.epa.gov/region01/aqi to receive smog alerts from EPA's New England office. Smog Alert is a free service provided by EPA in conjunction with the New England states which automatically notifies you by e-mail or fax when high concentrations of ground-level ozone are predicted in your area. Smog Alerts are issued to notify interested persons of predicted poor air quality in specific geographical areas of New England throughout the smog season, May through September.