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Release Date: 07/15/1997
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1064 Leo Kay, EPA Press Office (617) 918-4154

BOSTON -- The New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency expects unhealthy air quality with elevated levels of ground-level ozone today in southeastern Massachusetts including Cape Cod, and along the southern coast of Connecticut.

Air quality is considered "unhealthful" when concentrations of ozone exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 0.12 parts per million. In New England, ozone levels generally are highest from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and lowest in the morning. President Clinton recently announced tightened standards for smog and soot to be more protective of children's health.

Exposure to ground-level ozone can cause coughing, headaches, nausea, irritation of the mucous membranes, and may cause premature aging of the lungs. These effects occur in about one third of the population, especially those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Also at special risk are the elderly, asthmatics and children. Elevated ozone levels also cause crop and tree damage, and promote deterioration of certain materials such as rubber, textile fibers and paints.

Ground-level ozone, known as smog, is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) interact in the presence of sunlight. In addition to automobiles, major contributors to the ozone problem are fossil-fuel fired electricity generation stations, gasoline stations and distribution facilities, chemical manufacturers, fuel burning equipment, and industrial coating operations. This summer there have been four days in New England when the existing federal ozone standard has been exceeded.

Daily air quality predictions are available on EPA's World Wide Web information page as well as other information on ozone and air pollution. To review the daily color-coded map of predicted air quality levels for New England, New York and New Jersey type the following address: The map is updated at 3 p.m. each weekday.

The New England office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that people limit outdoor activities and refrain from strenuous exercise when air quality is unhealthy.