New Englanders can get a heads’ up on smoggy conditions that may affect their health with some free resources being offered by the EPA and their states.
The warm weather up ahead brings with it an increased risk of ground-level ozone and fine particle air pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog). Knowing when smog levels will be high allows people to take health precautions – and to take actions that will help reduce emissions that contribute to smog.
Ground-level Ozone air pollution can be a significant public health issue in New England, especially for people who suffer from respiratory problems. Health experts recommend that people limit their strenuous outdoor activity on air quality alert days.
What you can do
People can also sign up to receive "Air Quality Alerts." 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.
Current air quality conditions and next day forecasts for New England are also available each day at EPA's web site.
Warm summer temperatures aid in the formation of ground-level ozone. The current ozone standard is 0.070 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 New England shares the list of exceedances of the ozone standard, by date and monitor location, on our web site.
Although the number of days with unhealthy air quality may vary from year to year due to weather conditions, the long-term trend is that New England now experiences far fewer air quality alert days. In 1983, New England had 118 unhealthy days (based on the current ozone standard), compared with 25 in 2017.
Who is at risk
Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to air pollutants, including people 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. On these days, the public and businesses can take actions that will help reduce air pollution and protect the public health.
What you can do about it
Everyone can reduce air pollution through the following actions:
- use public transportation, or combine errands and car-pool to reduce driving time and mileage;
- use less electricity by turning air conditioning to a higher temperature setting;
- use less electricity by 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.
- Sign up for free air quality alerts: http://www.enviroflash.info
- Air Quality Forecasts and Alert program: https://www3.epa.gov/region1/aqi/
- A list of New England ozone exceedances by date and monitor location: https://www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-18.html
- Air Quality Awareness Week: https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/index.html