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Poor Air Quality for New England Expected to Continue on Thursday, August 15

Release Date: 08/14/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is predicting unhealthy air quality to continue Thursday, August 15, with elevated levels of ground-level ozone predicted for Connecticut, interior Rhode Island, Massachusetts (except the south coast and Cape Cod), and southern portions of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. The highest ozone concentrations are expected to occur in Connecticut. There are also unhealthy levels of fine particulates across portions of southern New England today that are expected to continue into tomorrow.

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

"We are expecting Thursday to be another unhealthy air quality day in New England," said Robert W. Varney, administrator of EPA's New England office. "On these days, EPA and the medical community suggest residents limit strenuous outdoor activity."

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 35 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.