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Free Air Quality Alerts Help New Englanders Prepare for Summer Smog Season

05/09/2017
Contact Information: 
Emily Bender (bender.emily@epa.gov)
617-918-1037

BOSTON - With the onset of warm summer weather, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises 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. EPA and states continue to offer free resources for the public to monitor the latest air quality forecasts.

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.

Warm summer temperatures aid in the formation of ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution. The current ozone standard, set in 2015, is 0.070 parts per million (ppm) on an 8-hour average basis. Air quality alerts are issued when ozone concentrations exceed, or are predicted to exceed, this level. 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 2015 ozone standard, in 1983, New England had 118 unhealthy days, compared with 32 in 2016. 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, the public 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.

More information:

Sign up for Air Quality Forecasts and Alert program (www3.epa.gov/region1/aqi/)

Air Quality Awareness Week (www3.epa.gov/airnow/airaware/)

A list of New England ozone exceedances by date and monitor location (www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-17.html)