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New England Had More Smog Days during Recent Summer, but Long-Term Trend of Cleaner Air Continues

Release Date: 10/01/2012
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Oct. 1, 2012) – As the 2012 summer ozone season comes to an end, EPA today confirmed that New Englanders experienced a modest increase in the number of poor air quality days this year, compared to 2011.

Based on preliminary data collected between April and September, there were 29 days when ozone monitors in New England recorded concentrations above the air quality health standard. By contrast, in 2011 there were a total of 16 unhealthy ozone days. However, over the longer term air quality in New England continues to improve.

The number of unhealthy ozone days in each state this summer were as follows: 27 days in Connecticut (compared to 14 in 2011); 17 days in Massachusetts (10 in 2011); 12 days in Rhode Island (6 in 2011); 4 days in Maine (3 in 2011); 4 days in New Hampshire (2 in 2011); and 0 days in Vermont (1 in 2011).  Ground-level ozone is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups when average concentrations exceed 0.075 parts per million over an 8-hour period.

The increase in the number of days with unhealthy air this summer was directly related to the increase in the number of hot days this summer. Intense sunshine and hot weather influence the formation of ozone; many areas of New England had more days exceeding 90 degrees this summer than during last summer. Although the 2012 ozone season is ending, pollution from small particles in the air is a year-round concern.

Although warm temperatures this summer led to an increase in unhealthy days, over the long-term, New England has experienced a decreasing number of unhealthy ozone days.  For example, in 1983, New England had 113 unhealthy days, compared with 29 this summer, a 74 percent decline.

“When we look back to the air quality conditions a generation ago, we can feel proud of the advances we have made in reducing air pollution,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England regional office. “The unhealthy days we experienced this summer, however, remind us that our efforts to improve air quality must continue.  All of us can make a difference by choosing to drive cleaner, fuel efficient cars and conserving energy in our daily lives.”

Ground-level ozone (smog) is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) chemically react in the presence of sunlight. Cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses give off the majority of the pollution that makes ozone. Fossil fuel burning at electric generating stations, also produce significant amounts of smog-making pollution. Gas stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to smog formation.

More information and Useful Resources:

- Free daily air quality forecasts (

- National air quality smart phone apps: (

- New England air quality summaries (1983 – 2012): (

- Preliminary detailed information on 2012 air quality information in New England (

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