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Air Quality Index Forecasts Now Available in 17 Pacific Northwest Cities

Release Date: 9/30/2003
Contact Information: John Millett
(202) 564-7842

September 30, 2003

Year-round particle pollution level forcasts now being predicted in more than 100 U.S. cities

Beginning Oct. 1 new information on air quality will be available year-round in more than 100 U.S. cities. As part of an ongoing effort to protect the American public from air pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency, together with state and local governments, is expanding current air quality forecasts to include daily information on particle pollution.

"The Bush Administration is working to further improve air quality by continuing to reduce car and truck emissions and developing new standards for non-road diesel vehicles in addition to a number of other efforts," said EPA Acting Administrator Marianne Horinko. "Monitoring and emissions data show tremendous air quality improvement over the past three decades, but there's more to do. As our work progresses, the expanded Air Quality Index forecasts will help millions of people protect their health – especially people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children," Horinko said.

The Air Quality Index, or AQI, is a color-coded system designed to inform the public about daily air pollution levels in their communities. During the summer months, local broadcast meteorologists in nearly 300 U.S. cities use the AQI to provide daily ozone forecasts as part of their weather casts. Beginning Oct. 1, the use of the AQI will be expanded to include daily, year-round forecasts for particle pollution. EPA has worked with state and local governments to make this information available for more than 100 cities. EPA expects this number to grow in the coming months as additional areas begin forecasting.

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Unlike ozone pollution, which is known to be highest during the summer months, particle pollution can vary throughout the year. While unhealthy levels occur on only a limited number of days, the expanded AQI forecasts give people the information they need to protect their health all year.

"Particle pollution" refers to a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets found in the air. Particles can be emitted directly – such as in smoke – or form when gases react in the atmosphere. Particle pollution comes from a number of sources, including cars and trucks, industry, fires, and power plants. Some of these particles, known as fine particles, can reach deep into the lungs, where they can affect both the lungs and the heart.

The EPA has already taken a number of actions to reduce particle pollution, including setting new stringent standards for cars and heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses. Similar tough standards are being developed for diesel engines used in large non-road equipment. The EPA's annual air trends report and latest acid rain data show steady and significant air quality improvement. Since 1970, emissions of the six principle air pollutants have been cut 48 percent. According to EPA acid rain program data, in 2002 SO2 emissions from power plants were nine percent lower than in 2000 and 41 percent lower than 1980. NOx emissions from power plants also continued a downward trend, measuring 4.5 million tons in 2002, a 13 percent reduction from 2000 and a 33 percent decline from 1990 emissions levels. EPA is also in the process of implementing the nation's first standards for fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller. In addition, President Bush has proposed the Clear Skies Act of 2003 – an innovative and aggressive program to reduce emissions from power plants. If passed by Congress, Clear Skies would achieve immediate and dramatic reductions in particle pollution.

High levels of particle pollution can affect the health of nearly every American, however certain groups, including people with heart or lung disease; older adults; and children, can also be at risk at lower levels. Particle pollution has been linked to asthma attacks, chronic bronchitis, changes in heart rate, arrhythmias and heart attacks, among other health problems.

Air quality forecasts are available on local television stations, on state and local air quality agency web sites, on USA Today's weather page and on The Weather Channel. Forecasts, health information, and maps showing real-time particle levels also are available on EPA's AIRNow web site.

The following is an initial list of 17 cities and metropolitan areas in the Pacific Northwest that will be issuing AQI forecasts year-round:

Other areas around the United States include:

Birmingham AL
Phoenix AZ
Los Angeles CA
Modesto CA
Oakland CA
Sacramento CA
San Diego CA
San Francisco CA
San Jose CA
Stockton CA
Denver CO
Bridgeport CT
Danbury CT
Hartford CT
Middletown CT
New Haven CT
New London - Groton CT
Stafford CT
Torrington CT
Washington DC
Wilmington DE
Miami FL
Orlando FL
Tampa FL
West Palm Beach FL
Atlanta GA
Honolulu HI
Des Moines IA
Indianapolis IN
Chicago IL
Peoria IL
Rockford IL
Springfield IL

New Orleans LA
Boston MA
Springfield MA
Worcester MA
Baltimore MD
Bangor ME
Lewiston - Auburn ME
Portland ME
Detroit MI
Minneapolis-St.Paul MN
Kansas City MO
St. Louis MO
Charlotte NC
Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point NC
Brentwood NH
Claremont NH
Concord NH
Conway NH
Haverhill NH
Keene NH
Laconia NH
Manchester NH
Nashua NH
Pittsburg NH
Portsmouth NH
Rye NH
Stafford County NH
Atlantic City NJ
Bayonne NJ
Camden NJ
Cherry Hill NJ
Clifton NJ
East Orange NJ
Elizabeth NJ
Hackensack NJ
Jersey City NJ
Millville NJ
Nacote Cr. - Brig. NJ
New Jersey Northern
New Jersey Southern
Newark NJ
Passaic NJ
Paterson NJ
Perth Amboy NJ
Plainfield NJ
Ramapo NJ
Rider University NJ
Rutgers University NJ
Trenton NJ
Union City NJ
Vineland NJ
Las Vegas NV
Albany NY
Babylon NY
Base-White Mountain NY
Belleayre Mountain NY
Buffalo NY
Camden NY
Camp Georgetown NY
Dunkirk NY
Middleport NY
New York NY

Rochester NY
Syracuse NY
Westfield NY
Whiteplains NY
Williamson NY
Cincinnati OH
Cleveland OH
Columbus OH
Dayton OH
Lawton OK
Oklahoma City OK
Tulsa OK
Philadelphia PA
Pittsburgh PA
Newport RI
Providence RI
West Greenwich RI
Memphis TN
Nashville TN
Dallas TX
Houston TX
Austin TX
San Antonio TX
Victoria TX
El Paso TX
Tyler-Longview-Marshall TX
Corpus Christi TX
Beaumont TX
Salt Lake City UT
Bennington VT
Burlington VT