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Summer Heat Wave Means Poor Air Quality Predicted in New England for Monday and Tuesday

Release Date: 08/17/2009
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – August 17, 2009) – Unhealthy air quality is predicted in most of New England both today and tomorrow (Aug. 17-18, 2009).

Elevated levels of ground-level ozone are predicted today, Monday Aug. 17 in the following areas: southern Connecticut; Providence and Kent counties in Rhode Island; central and eastern Massachusetts; southern New Hampshire; and the southern coastal sections of Maine. Areas in northern Vermont are also expected to experience unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter.

Unhealthy air quality is expected tomorrow, Tues. Aug. 18, throughout much of southern New England and coastal areas north of Boston. The forecast of hot weather is also expected to cause the demand for electricity in New England to reach high load levels which can further increase emissions to the air that reduce air quality.

“With high summer heat, we are expecting to see unhealthy air quality in much of New England during the early part of this week,” said Ira Leighton, acting administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Although we have made great progress in our battle against air pollution in New England, we continue to see days when the air is unhealthy, especially on these hot and humid days. When air quality is poor, EPA and the medical community suggest residents limit strenuous outdoor activity.”

EPA’s ground-level ozone air quality health standard, which was revised in 2008, is set at 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis. Air quality alerts are issued when ozone concentrations are expected to exceed this new standard. Prior to revision to the ozone standard, EPA issued air quality alerts when 8-hour average ozone levels were at, or predicted to be at, 0.085 ppm or above. Due to the mild and wet summer this year, there have only been 7 days in New England when ozone concentrations have exceeded the new 2008 ozone standard. (A preliminary list of this summer’s unhealthy readings can be found at
http://www.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-09.html).

The current fine particle standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. Air quality alerts are issued when fine particle concentrations are expected to exceed this standard.

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 particle pollution levels can increase the likelihood of respiratory symptoms in sensitive individuals, aggravate heart or lung disease, and may cause premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease.

Due to tomorrow’s forecast of hot weather, the demand for electricity in New England is forecast to reach high load levels. Given the air quality and high load forecasts, EPA is asking homeowners and employers to make a special effort to reduce their electricity consumption. EPA asks employers to consider asking their employees to dress casually and turn their air conditioning to a higher temperature setting and turn off any unnecessary lights and computers when not in use. Homeowners also are urged to turn their air conditioner to a higher temperature setting, turn off unnecessary lights and appliances, such as televisions, computers, or lights during the day, and to defer household activities like laundry until later hours.

Ozone 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. Fossil fuel burning at electric power plants, particularly on hot days, emits 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. Ozone is particularly likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days. Major sources of fine particle pollution are factories, coal and oil-burning power plants, trash incinerators, motor vehicles, construction activity, and fires.

When air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, EPA asks the public to take action. The public can help reduce air pollution by:

- Using public transportation, car pooling and/or combining trips;

- Refueling cars at night to reduce gasoline vapors getting into the air during the daytime when the sun can cook the vapors and form ozone;

- Avoiding the use of small gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, and leaf blowers;

- Avoiding outdoor wood burning.

More information:

-
Real-time air quality data and forecasts (www.epa.gov/ne/aqi)

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Sign up to receive free air quality alerts by e-mail (www.epa.gov/ne/airquality/smogalrt.html)

- Preliminary list of 2009 unhealthy air quality readings (www.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-09.html)

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