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Poor Air Quality for Southern New England Expected to Continue through the Weekend

Release Date: 08/16/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is predicting unhealthy air quality to continue through the weekend, with elevated levels of ground-level ozone predicted for portions of New England.

    On Saturday, August 17, poor air quality is expected across the southern coast of New England. On Sunday, August 18, poor air quality is expected throughout most of southern New England including all of Connecticut and most of Massachusetts (except in extreme western areas of Massachusetts where air quality is expected to be moderate).

    The current episode of unhealthy air quality began in New England on Saturday, August 10. Unhealthy levels have been recorded in New England every day this week since then.

    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 36 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.)

    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. The most common symptoms of ozone exposure are coughing, pain when taking a deep breath, and for people with respiratory disease, shortness of breath.

    "The medical community speaks loudly and clearly on this issue: When ozone levels are up, New Englanders should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems," said Robert W. Varney, EPA New England's regional administrator. "Up to 20 percent of summertime respiratory-related hospital visits in New England are directly attributable to ozone."

    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.

    When air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, EPA asks the public to take ozone action. You or your employer can help get rid of ozone-smog by limiting the things you do that make air pollution. For instance:

      • use public transportation, or walk whenever possible;
      • if you must drive, car pool and combine trips;
      • help reduce emissions from power plants by turning air conditioners to a higher temperature and turning off lights, computer screens, and other electrical appliances when not in use;
      • go to the gas station 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;
      • avoid using gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.
    In an effort to better inform New Englanders about "real-time" ozone levels, the EPA maintains an ozone mapping system, which shows real-time images and daily forecasts of ground-level ozone levels. The daily ozone forecast is available on the EPA's air pollution web site at http://www.epa.gov/region01/aqi.

    Citizens can also sign up at this web address 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.