Poor Air Quality Predicted in Most of New England for Friday, July 18, 2008
Release Date: 07/17/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017
(Boston, Mass. - July 17, 2008) – Unhealthy air quality is predicted for Friday, July 18, in the following areas: Connecticut; Rhode Island; Massachusetts (except the south coast and Cape Cod where air quality is expected to be moderate); southern Vermont; and southeastern New Hampshire, due to ground-level ozone. In addition, unhealthy levels of fine particles are expected in the urban centers of central and eastern Massachusetts. The forecast for hot weather tomorrow is also expected to cause the demand for electricity in New England to reach high load levels.
Poor air quality is expected to continue into the weekend, as long as hot temperatures persist. Maps indicating current air quality levels are available at www.epa.gov/ne/aqi
“Although we have progressed in our battle against air pollution in New England, we continue to see days when the air is unhealthy, especially on hot and humid days, like is forecast for tomorrow," said Robert W. Varney, administrator of EPA’s New England office. “On these days, EPA and the medical community suggest that people limit their strenuous outdoor activity.”
This summer, New Englanders can expect an increase in the number of air quality alert days, resulting from EPA’s recent lowering of the level of the ground-level ozone air quality health standard. The new ozone standard is set at 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis. Air quality alerts will be issued when ozone concentrations are expected to exceed this new standard. EPA previously issued air quality alerts when 8-hour average ozone levels were at, or predicted to be at, 0.085 ppm or above. So far this year, there have been 20 days in New England when ozone concentrations have exceeded the new 2008 ozone standard. (A preliminary list of this summer’s unhealthy readings is available online (epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-08.html).
The current 24-hour fine particle standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. Air quality alerts for particle pollution are issued when 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. When ozone levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.
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. When particulate concentrations are elevated, people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should limit prolonged exertion.
Due to tomorrow’s 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. 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.
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. 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. Major sources of fine particulate pollution are factories, 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; and
- Avoiding the use of small gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, and leaf blowers.
More information: EPA and the New England states provide real-time air quality data and forecasts (epa.gov/ne/aqi). People can also sign up at this web site to receive free air quality alerts by e-mail when poor air quality is predicted in their area.
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