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With Hot Summer Weather, Unhealthy Air Quality Predicted in Southern New England for Tuesday and Wednesday

Release Date: 07/31/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – July 31, 2006) – Elevated levels of ground-level ozone are predicted for Connecticut, central and western Massachusetts, and all of Rhode Island for Tues. Aug. 1.

With the hot weather forecast to last into at least Wednesday in southern New England, unhealthy air quality may persist for this region into at least Wednesday. The forecast of hot weather is also expected to cause the demand for electricity in New England to reach high load levels, meaning businesses and individuals can help reduce demand by keeping air conditioning thermostats a few degrees warmer.

“Even as long-range trends show improved air quality in New England, with hot and humid summer weather we typically also will see days that have unhealthy air quality in some places,” said Robert W. Varney, EPA New England’s regional administrator. “During days when air quality is reduced, EPA and the medical community suggest residents limit strenuous outdoor activity. Also, we remind people that we can all take simple steps to help reduce emissions when air quality is reduced.”

Ground-level ozone (smog) 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. Burning fossil fuel at electric powerplants, particularly on hot days, give off a lot of 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.

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. When smog levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.

When ozone is forecast to be unhealthy, EPA asks the public to take ozone action. The public can help reduce ozone-smog by:

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

- Refueling cars 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;

- Avoiding the use of gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, leaf blowers on unhealthy air days;

- Setting air conditioning thermostats a few degrees higher to help reduce electrical demand through the region.

Due to the forecast of hot weather, the demand for electricity in New England is forecast to reach high load levels. Given the ozone and high load forecasts, EPA is asking homeowners and employers to make a special effort to reduce their electricity consumption. Employers may consider asking employees to dress casually and turn their air conditioning to a higher temperature setting. Businesses and homeowners can help by turning off any unnecessary lights, computers and appliances when not in use.

EPA considers ground-level ozone to be unhealthy when average concentrations exceed 0.08 parts per million over an eight-hour period. So far this year, there have been 12 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 is available (epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-06.html)

In order to help New England residents prepare for poor air quality this summer, EPA and the New England states provide real-time ozone data and air quality forecasts. People can also sign up to receive air quality alerts (epa.gov/ne/airquality/smogalrt.html) from EPA’s New England office.

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