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Poor Air Quality Predicted for Portion of Southern New England Tomorrow

Release Date: 08/07/2000
Contact Information: Amy Miller (617-918-1042)

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is predicting unhealthy air quality, with elevated levels of ground-level ozone for tomorrow, Tuesday, in several areas in southern New England.

Air quality is predicted to be unhealthy throughout Connecticut and along the south coast of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the Islands.

"Ground-level ozone smog threatens the public health," said Mindy S. Lubber, EPA's New England Administrator. "Although we've enjoyed relatively mild weather and ozone levels over the last four to five weeks, conditions like those expected tomorrow will unfortunately produce unhealthy air for our citizens. When unhealthy air occurs, EPA and the medical community suggest residents refrain from strenuous outdoor activity."

Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to ozone, including children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

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. The most common systems of ozone exposure are coughing, pain when taking a deep breath, and for people with respiratory disease, shortness of breath.

When elevated ozone levels are expected, EPA recommends that people limit strenuous outdoor activity during the afternoon and early evening hours, when ozone levels are highest.

Ground-level ozone (smog) is formed 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 powerplants, particularly on hot days, give off a lot of smog-making pollution. Gas stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment also add significantly to the ozone smog.

Ground level ozone, the main ingredient of smog, is unhealthy when average concentrations exceed 0.08 parts per million over an eight-hour period. So far this summer, there have been 16 days when ozone monitors in New England have recorded concentrations above this level. This is fewer days than typical by this time of year, primarily due to the unseasonably cool weather that occurred during the past four to five weeks. (A preliminary list of the unhealthy readings recorded so far this summer can be found at

When air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, EPA asks the public to take ozone action. You or your employer can help get rid of ozone-smog by limiting the things you do that make air pollution. For instance:

    • use public transportation, or walk whenever possible;
    • if you must drive, car pool and combine trips;
    • go to the gas station at night to cut down on gasoline vapors getting into the air during day light hours when the sun can cook the vapors and form ozone;
    • use less electricity - turn air conditioning to a higher temperature, turn out lights and computer screens when you're not using them;
    • avoid using gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.
Due to tomorrow's forecast of hot weather, the demand for electricity in New England is forecast to reach high peak levels. Given the ozone and electricity 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 computer screens when not in use. Homeowners are urged to turn their air conditioning thermostat to a higher temperature setting, turn off unnecessary lights and appliances, such as televisions, computer screens, or lights during the day, and to defer household activities like laundry until later hours.

In an effort to better inform New Englanders about "real-time" ozone levels, the EPA maintains an ozone mapping system, which shows real-time images and daily forecasts of ground-level ozone levels. The daily ozone forecast is available on the EPA's Wide Web air pollution information page at

Citizens can also sign up at this web address to receive smog alerts from EPA's New England office. Smog Alert is a free service provided by EPA in conjunction with the New England states which automatically notifies you by e-mail or fax when high concentrations of ground-level ozone are predicted in your area. Smog Alerts are issued to notify interested persons of predicted poor air quality in specific geographical areas of New England throughout the summer smog season, May through September.