EPA Tools Available as Summer Smog Season Starts
Release Date: 04/30/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017
(Boston, Mass. – April 30, 2008) – As warm weather returns to New England, EPA and the National Weather Service are reminding the public to protect their health by paying attention to local air quality. Targeted resources are available to help people stay informed about air quality information in their communities, including daily air quality forecasts and alerts on poor air quality days that are issued by EPA and by states.
This summer, New Englanders can expect an increase in the number of air quality alert days, resulting from EPA’s recent lowering of the level of the ozone air quality health standard. The new ozone standard is set at 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis. Air quality alerts will be issued when ozone concentrations are expected to exceed this new standard. EPA previously issued air quality alerts when 8-hour average ozone levels were at or predicted to be at 0.085 ppm or above.
The first exceedances of the 2008 ozone season in New England have already occurred during warm temperatures and sunny skies on April 18, 19, and 23.
“Ground-level ozone air pollution is a significant public health threat in New England," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “New Englanders need to pay close attention to air quality warnings and limit strenuous outdoor activity on air quality alert days. Plus, we all can take individual actions to reduce the air pollution that contributes to this public health risk.”
Current air quality conditions and next day forecasts for New England are available each day at EPA’s web site. People can also sign up to receive “Air Quality Alerts.” These alerts, provided free by EPA through the EnviroFlash system, in cooperation with the New England states, automatically notify participants by e-mail when high concentrations of ground-level ozone or fine particles are predicted in their area.
Warm summer temperatures aid in the formation of ground-level ozone. These same conditions can also contribute to the formation of fine particles, another pollutant that results in poor air quality.
Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to air pollutants, including children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma. When air quality is predicted to be unhealthy, EPA and the states will announce an air quality alert for the affected areas. EPA recommends that people in these areas limit strenuous outdoor activity and EPA asks that on these days, citizens and businesses take actions that will help reduce air pollution and protect the public health. Everyone can reduce air pollution through the following actions:
- use public transportation or walk whenever possible;
- combine errands and car-pool to reduce driving time and trips;
- use less electricity by turning air conditioning to a higher temperature setting, and turning off lights, TVs and computers when they are not being used; and
- avoid using gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.
Cars, trucks, and buses are a primary source of the pollutants that make smog. Fossil fuel burning (coal, oil and natural gas) at electric power plants, particularly on hot days, also generates significant smog-forming pollution. Gas stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to smog formation.
The federal Clean Air Act has led to significant improvements in ozone air quality over the past 25 years and EPA continues to take steps to further reduce air pollution. Since 2004, new cars, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and mini-vans are meeting stringent new emission standards. The requirements will be phased in through 2009 resulting in vehicles that are 77 to 95 percent cleaner than older models.
EPA’s standards for new (starting with model year 2007) diesel trucks and buses will reduce NOx and particulate matter emissions by up to 95 percent. EPA has issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule to help reduce the transport of air pollution from power plants across state boundaries. When fully implemented, this rule will reduce power plant NOx emissions by over 60 percent and sulfur dioxide by over 70 percent from 2003 levels.
Free Air Quality Resources:
- Air Quality Awareness Week (epa.gov/airnow/airaware)
- Air Quality Forecasts and Alert program (epa.gov/ne/aqi)
- A list of ozone exceedances by date and monitor location: (epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-08.html)
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