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New England Experienced Fewer Unhealthy Air Quality Days During 2016 Summer Ozone Season

09/30/2016
Contact Information: 
Emily Bender (bender.emily@epa.gov)
617-918-1037

(Boston, Mass.) – Today, EPA confirmed that New Englanders experienced a slight decrease in the number of unhealthy air quality days this year, compared to 2015.

Based on preliminary data collected between April and September 2016, there were 32 days when ozone monitors in New England recorded ozone concentrations above levels considered healthy. By contrast, in 2015 there were a total of 38 unhealthy ozone days.

The number of unhealthy ozone days in each state this summer, and for last summer are as follows:

  • 31 days in Connecticut (compared to 33 in 2015)
  • 11 days in Massachusetts (15 in 2015)
  • 6 days in Rhode Island (10 in 2015)
  • 5 days in New Hampshire (7 in 2015)
  • 4 days in Maine (4 in 2015)
  • 1 day in Vermont (0 in 2015)

The number of unhealthy days (when ozone concentrations exceed the 0.070 parts per million standard) vary from year to year, due to weather conditions. Hot, sunny weather is conducive to ozone formation. This year, New England experienced more days when the temperature exceeded 90 F than last year. However, even with warmer temperatures and an abundance of sunshine, ozone air quality improved over last summer. This continues the long-term trend towards cleaner air in New England. Since 1983, New England has experienced a significant decrease in the number of unhealthy ozone days. In 1983, New England had 118 unhealthy days, compared with 32 this year. This downward trend is due to a reduction in emissions that form ozone.

Ground-level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen chemically react in the presence of sunlight. In New England, cars and trucks give off the majority of the pollution that makes ozone. Fossil fuels burning at electric power plants, which run at high capacities on hot days, emit substantial amounts of ozone-making pollution. Gasoline refilling stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to ozone formation.

"We can all feel proud of the progress we have made in reducing ozone pollution over the past several decades," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Unfortunately New England, especially coastal Connecticut, continues to experience an unacceptable number of days with unhealthful air quality. EPA is taking steps to improve ozone air quality, such as issuing rules to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks and power plants."

Last year, EPA finalized even tighter standards for 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. In addition, earlier this month, EPA issued an update to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). Starting in May 2017, this rule will reduce summertime NOX emissions from power plants in 22 states in the eastern U.S. Although the 2016 ozone season is ending, pollution from small particles in the air is a year-round concern.

The daily air quality forecast will continue to be available at www3.epa.gov/region1/aqi/ New Englanders can also sign up at this address to receive air quality alerts. These alerts are issued by e-mail, whenever necessary, to notify program participants when high concentrations of ground-level ozone or small particles are predicted to occur, in their area.

Historical charts of unhealthy air days from 1983 through 2016 are available for each New England state on EPA New England's web site at: www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/standard.html A preliminary list of the unhealthy readings recorded this summer by date and monitor location, and corresponding air quality maps for each day, can be found at: www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/o3exceed-16.html