Air Quality Tools Available as Smog Season Starts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service are reminding the public to take advantage of the targeted resources available to stay informed about air quality information, including daily air quality forecasts and alerts on poor air quality days issued by EPA and the states.

Because EPA recently lowered the ozone air quality health standard (to 75 parts per billion), residents can expect an increase in the number of air quality alerts. The agency previously issued air quality alerts when 8-hour average ozone levels were at or predicted to be at 85 parts per billion or above.

Already on April 18, 19, and 23 of this year, New England has exceeded the ozone standard.

"Ground-level ozone air pollution is a significant public health threat in New England," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office."New Englanders need to pay close attention to air quality warnings and limit strenuous outdoor activity on air quality alert days.Plus, we all can take individual actions to reduce the air pollution that contributes to this public health risk."

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 trips;

• 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 gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days.

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 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. These same conditions can contribute to the formation of fine particles, another pollutant that results in poor air quality.

To access the free air quality resources, visit (air quality forecasts and alert program) and (a list of ozone exceedances by date and monitor location).

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