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News Releases from Region 01

Summer Smog Season Starts Soon

Air Quality Awareness Week is Monday, May 2 - Friday, May 6, 2016

Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)

BOSTON – With the onset of warmer weather, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urges New Englanders to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone and fine particle air pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog), and take health precautions when smog levels are high. For more information EPA has a web site -- Air Quality Awareness Week (www3.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/index.html)

"Air pollution is a significant public health issue in New England," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office "New Englanders need to pay close attention to air quality alerts and limit strenuous outdoor activity on air quality alert days In addition, we can all take individual actions to reduce the air pollution that contributes to this public health risk."

Air quality forecasts are issued daily by the New England state air agencies Current air quality conditions and next day forecasts for New England are available each day at EPA's web site. People can also sign up to receive "Air Quality Alerts." These alerts, provided free by EPA through the EnviroFlash system, in cooperation with the New England states, automatically notify participants by e-mail or text message when high concentrations of ground-level ozone or fine particles are predicted in their area

On October 1, 2015, EPA strengthened the ozone standard. The standard was previously set in 2008 at 0.075 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis The new, more protective, standard is set at a lower level of 0.070 ppm. This level was chosen because it is requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. Air quality alerts are issued when ozone concentrations exceed, or are predicted to exceed, this new level Since the standard is lower (more stringent), EPA expects that more air quality alerts will be issued this summer. EPA New England posts a list of exceedances of the ozone standard, by date and monitor location, on its web site.

Although the number of unhealthy days may vary from year to year due to weather conditions, over the long-term, New England has experienced a significant decrease in the number of unhealthy ozone days. Based on the new ozone standard, in 1983 New England had 118 unhealthy days, compared with 38 in 2015. This downward trend is due to a reduction in the emissions that form ozone. With your help we can continue this improvement in air quality.

Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to air pollutants, including people who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma When air quality is predicted to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, 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 EPA asks that on these days, citizens and businesses take actions that will help reduce air pollution and protect the public health Everyone can reduce air pollution through the following actions:

  • 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.

Cars, motorcycles, trucks, and buses are a major source of the pollutants that form smog. Coal burning at electric generating stations, particularly on hot days, also generates significant smog-forming pollution. Other industries, as well as smaller sources, such as gasoline stations and print shops, also contribute to smog. In addition, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to smog formation.

The federal Clean Air Act has led to significant improvements in ozone air quality over the past 30 years and EPA continues to take steps to further reduce air pollution. Since model year 2007, large diesel trucks and buses have reduced NOx and fine particle emissions by up to 95 percent. In addition, last year, EPA finalized even tighter standards for future new cars, sold after 2017. The automobile and gasoline rule, known as Tier 3, will help lower automobile pollution by a significant margin. Compared to current automobile standards, the Tier 3 emissions standards for cars represent an additional 80% reduction of ozone causing pollution when compared to today's average. Furthermore, in 2011, EPA promulgated the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This rule targets air pollution emissions from power plants in 28 eastern states EPA is in the process of further strengthening this rule.

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