Prepare for the Summer Smog Season with Free Air Quality Alerts
Air Quality Awareness Week is May 3 - May 7, 2021
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 to take health precautions when smog levels are predicted to be high. EPA and states continue to offer free resources for the public to monitor the latest air quality forecasts.
"Ozone air pollution can be a significant public health issue in New England," said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro. "New Englanders can protect their health by paying close attention to air quality and to limit strenuous outdoor activity on days when poor air quality is expected. Also, we can all take individual actions to reduce our emissions that contribute to air pollution."
Air quality forecasts are issued daily by the New England state air agencies. Current air quality conditions and next-day forecasts are available each day on EPA's website (www.airnow.gov). 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 email or text message when ozone or fine-particle levels in their area are predicted to be high.
Warm summer temperatures aid formation of ground-level ozone. 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 website.
Although the number of unhealthy days varies 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. Using the 2015 ozone standard, New England had 118 unhealthy days in 1983, compared with 18 in 2020. This downward trend is mainly due to a reduction in emissions from powerplants and other industrial facilities.
Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are more sensitive than others to air pollution, including people who are active outdoors and those with respiratory diseases such as asthma. When air quality is predicted to be "unhealthy for sensitive groups," EPA and the States announce an air quality alert for the affected areas. On these days, EPA recommends that people in these areas limit strenuous outdoor activity and asks that the public and businesses take actions to help reduce air pollution and protect public health. Here are some of the actions everyone can take to reduce air pollution:
- Use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible.
- Combine errands and car pool to reduce driving time and mileage.
- Set air conditioners to a higher temperature and turn off lights, TVs, and computers when they are not being used.
- Avoid using small gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, power-washers, air compressors, and leaf blowers.
- Avoid outdoor burning, including leaf burning and use of firepits and campfires.
Pollution sources that contribute to smog formation are diverse. They include cars, motorcycles, trucks, and buses; and fossil-fuel burning at electric generating stations, particularly on hot days. Smaller sources, such as gasoline stations and print shops, and household products, including paints and cleaners, and gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to the formation of smog.
Get Daily Air Quality Forecasts and Sign up for Air Quality Alerts: https://www3.epa.gov/region1/aqi/
List of New England ozone exceedances by date and monitor location:
Air Quality Awareness Week: https://www.airnow.gov/aqaw/.