With the onset of warmer weather, EPA reminds New Englanders to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone and fine particle air pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog), and take health precautions when smog levels are high. EPA and states continue to offer free resources for citizens to monitor the latest air quality forecasts.

“Air pollution can have significant health impacts for people in New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “People should pay attention to air quality alerts and limit strenuous outdoor activity on air quality alert days. Fortunately, we can all take individual actions to reduce the air pollution that contributes to this public health risk.”

Free resources are available for people to access information on air quality. Daily air quality forecasts are issued by the New England state air agencies. Current air quality conditions and next day forecasts for New England are available each day at EPA’s web site. People can also sign up to receive “Air Quality Alert” email or text messages. These alerts, provided free by EPA through the EnviroFlash system, in cooperation with the New England states, automatically notify participants by e-mail or text message when high concentrations of ground-level ozone or fine particles are predicted in their area.

Warm summer temperatures aid in the formation of ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution. The current ozone standard, set in 2008, is 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis. Air quality alerts are issued when ozone concentrations exceed, or are predicted to exceed, this level. EPA recently proposed to strengthen the ozone standard, with a final decision required by Oct. 1. EPA New England posts a list of exceedances of the 2008 ozone standard, by date and monitor location, on its web site.

Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to air pollutants, including children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma. When air quality is predicted to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, EPA and the states will announce an air quality alert for the affected areas. EPA recommends that people in these areas limit strenuous outdoor activity, as well as asking citizens and businesses to take actions on these days to help reduce air pollution and protect public health.

Everyone can reduce air pollution through the following actions:
– use public transportation or walk whenever possible;
– combine errands and car-pool to reduce driving time and mileage;
– use less electricity by turning air conditioning to a higher temperature setting, and turning off lights, TVs and computers when they are not being used; and
– avoid using small gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, power-washers, air compressors and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.

Cars, motorcycles, trucks, and buses are a major source of the pollutants that form smog. Coal burning at electric generating stations, particularly on hot days, also generates significant smog-forming pollution. Other industries, as well as smaller sources, such as gasoline stations and print shops, also contribute to smog. In addition, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to smog formation.