EPA, NWS Offer Guidance for Summer Smog Season

As warm weather returns, EPA and the National Weather Service are reminding the public to protect their health by paying attention to local air quality. Targeted resources are available to help you stay informed about air quality information in your community, including daily air quality forecasts and alerts on poor air quality days that are issued by EPA and by states. This summer, Americans can expect an increase in the number of air quality alert days, as a result of EPA's recent lowering of the level of the ozone air quality health standard. The new ozone standard is set at 0.075 parts per million 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.

Current air quality conditions and next-day forecasts are available each day at EPA's Web site. You can also sign up to receive "Air Quality Alerts." These alerts, provided free by EPA through the EnviroFlash system, automatically notify participants by e-mail 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. These same conditions also can contribute to the formation of fine particles, another pollutant that results in poor air quality.

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, 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 and asks that on these days citizens and businesses take actions that will help reduce air pollution and protect the public health. Actions that the agency recommends to reduce air pollution include:

  • Use public transportation or walk whenever possible;
  • Combine errands and car-pool to reduce driving time and trips;
  • 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 gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.

Air quality resources are available at:
Air Quality Awareness Week (www.epa.gov/airnow/airaware)
Air Quality Forecasts and Alert program (www.epa.gov/ne/aqi)
A list of ozone exceedances by date and monitor location (www.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-08.html).

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