The triple H’s of summer – heat, haze and humidity – are expected to settle over the region today as temperatures soar into the 90s.
The hot, sticky weather has prompted both federal and state environmental officials to issue air quality warnings in the state. While the federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued air quality warnings for coastal Connecticut, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection has issued its own air quality warnings today for several counties in the state, including Middlesex and northern New Haven counties. The DEP is forecasting that the ozone level in the state today will be moderate to unhealthy for those with air quality sensitivities.
In 2010 there were 18 “unhealthy ozone” days in Connecticut between June 19 and Sept. 2. On such days, those with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, could experience more severe symptoms as a result of poor air quality, according to the DEP.
The EPA today is reporting that air quality in the state will be worse in Connecticut’s coastal communities.
“We are expecting Wednesday to be an unhealthy air quality day in parts of southern and coastal New England,” said Curt Spalding, Administrator of EPA’s New England office. “To protect your health, New Englanders should pay close attention to air quality warnings, limit their strenuous outdoor activity on air quality alert days, and help take steps to reduce emissions when air quality is unhealthy.”
The EPA issues air quality alerts when ozone concentrations exceed, or are predicted to exceed, 0.075 parts per million on an 8-hour average basis.
Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause serious breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases, and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection, EPA officials say. When smog levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially those with respiratory problems, they say.
Ground-level ozone (smog) forms when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen interact in the presence of sunlight. Cars, trucks and buses give off the majority of the pollution that makes smog. Power plants that use fossil fuels emit pollution that can form smog. Gasoline stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment also add significantly to the ozone smog.
The EPA has the following instructions for how the public can help reduce smog:
- Use public transportation, car-pooling and/or combining trips.
- Refuel cars at night to reduce gasoline vapors getting into the air during the daytime when the sun can cook the vapors and form ozone.
- Avoid the use of small gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, and leaf blowers.
The EPA provides real-time ozone data and air quality forecasts. Click here to access the data and to sign up for free air quality alerts.