Environmental Protection

Hot Weather for Southern New England Means Poor Air Quality

Unhealthy air quality is predicted for the southern portions of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and the south coast of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the Islands, on Wednesday due to ground-level ozone. Poor air quality is expected to continue into Thursday.

“When we experience high levels of unhealthy air quality, EPA and the medical community suggests that people take steps to protect their exposure by limiting their strenuous outdoor activity,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “People can also help reduce smog-forming emissions by car pooling, taking public transportation or keeping their AC thermostat a few degrees higher.”

Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases, and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection.  When ozone levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.

Ground-level ozone forms when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen (ozone precursors) interact in the presence of strong sunlight. Cars, trucks and buses give off the majority of the pollution create ozone.  Fossil fuel burning at electric generating units, particularly on hot days, also emit ozone precursors. Gasoline stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment also add significantly to the ozone problem. 

When ozone is forecast to be unhealthy, EPA asks the public to take action. The public can help reduce ozone by:

- Using public transportation, car pooling and/or combining trips;
- Avoiding the use of small gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers and tractors, chain saws, power washers, air compressors, weed whackers and leaf blowers.

The ozone standard is 0.075 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. So far this year, there have been 2 days in New England when ozone concentrations have exceeded the standard.

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