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News Releases from Region 01

Poor Air Quality Expected for Southern Coastal New England

Contact Information: 
Emily Bender (bender.emily@epa.gov)

BOSTON – Poor air quality, due to ground-level ozone, is expected for southern Connecticut, southern Rhode Island, and southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the Islands, on Wednesday, May 25. Unhealthy air quality is expected to continue into Thursday.

"With the onset of warmer weather, we are expecting unhealthy air quality for both Wednesday and Thursday in parts of southern New England," said Curt Spalding, Administrator of EPA's New England office. "On these days, EPA and the medical community suggest that people limit their strenuous outdoor activity."

On October 1, 2015, EPA strengthened the ozone standard to a lower, more protective level of 0.070 parts per million (ppm). This level was chosen because it is requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. The older standard did not provide the same level of health protection. So far this year, there have been 2 days in New England when ozone concentrations have exceeded the standard. (A preliminary list of this summer's unhealthy readings can be found at www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-16.html)

Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases, and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection. When ozone levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.

Ground-level ozone forms when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen (ozone precursors) interact in the presence of strong sunlight. Cars, trucks and buses give off the majority of the pollution create ozone. Gasoline stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment also add significantly to the ozone problem.

When ozone is forecast to be unhealthy, EPA asks the public to take action. The public can help reduce ozone by:

  • use public transportation or walk whenever possible;
  • combine errands and car-pool to reduce driving time and mileage;
  • 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 small gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, power-washers, air compressors and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.

EPA and the New England states provide real-time ozone data and air quality forecasts at www3.epa.gov/region1/aqi. This website can also be used to sign up to receive free air quality alerts by e-mail when poor air quality is predicted for a particular area. National real-time air quality data from AirNow is also available on smart phones with free iPhone and Android apps, available for download at www.airnow.gov.