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Release Date: 10/01/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON -- At the close of the 1999 summer ozone season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced this week that warm, dry weather caused New England to suffer from 25 percent more unhealthy days this year compared to last year, with the highest jumps recorded in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Based on preliminary data, there were 35 days when ozone monitors in New England recorded concentrations above the level considered healthy. Last summer, there were a total of 28 unhealthy days. Ground level ozone, the main ingredient of smog, is unhealthy when average concentrations exceed 0.08 parts per million over an eight-hour period.

The number of unhealthy days in each state this summer were as follows: 33 days in Connecticut (compared to 25 in 1998); 22 days in Massachusetts (12 in 1998); 11 days in Rhode Island (5 in 1998); 10 days in Maine (11 in 1998); 9 days in New Hampshire; (7 in 1998) and 2 days in Vermont (0 in 1998).

Warmer temperatures this summer led to more unhealthy days, but the long term trend in the number of unhealthy days in New England continues downward. Historical charts of unhealthy air days are available for each state at Hot summers like the summer of 1999, are reminders of the work still to be done in curbing air pollution. A table of 1999 ozone exceedances by date and monitor location is available on EPA-New England's web site at

"When we look back to the air quality conditions a generation ago, we can feel proud of the advances we've made in reducing pollution," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "A summer like this one, however, reminds us that our efforts for cleaner cars, trucks and SUVs and our commitment to controlling Midwest power plants must continue."

Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause serious breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases, and make people who are vulnerable more susceptible to respiratory infection.

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 power plants, 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 contribute to smog formation.

The federal Clean Air Act has led to significant improvements in air quality over the past 20 years. Further air quality improvements are expected as more New England states put enhanced motor vehicle inspection and maintenance programs in place. In addition, four New England states (all but Maine and Vermont) have begun requiring electric generators and other industrial sources to reduce summer time nitrogen oxide emissions by as much as 65 percent from 1990 levels through a regional emissions cap and trade program.

EPA has also proposed new standards for cleaner cars and cleaner gasoline. Specifically, EPA has proposed tougher tailpipe emission standards for cars and light-duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles, and limits on the amount of sulfur in gasoline. These rules are expected to be issued in final form by the end of the year.

EPA has also taken aggressive steps to reduce pollution from power plants upwind of New England. In 1998, EPA set rules requiring a reduction of 1.2 million tons (28 percent) of smog-forming pollution in 22 states in the eastern United States. A federal court has put on hold the effectiveness of these rules pending litigation. EPA believes, however, that these pollution reductions are both fair and necessary to reduce the number of unhealthy air days in the Northeast. EPA is arguing before the court to uphold these rules and will continue to work, along with New England states, for substantial reductions of the pollution blown into New England.

To inform New Englanders about ozone levels, EPA maintains an ozone mapping system that shows "real-time" images and daily forecasts of ground-level ozone levels. The daily ozone forecast is available from May through September on the EPA's Wide Web air pollution information page at Citizens can also sign up at this web address to receive free smog alerts from EPA's New England office.