DEEP ALERT: Unhealthy air quality forecast for this week
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is forecasting unhealthy air quality beginning Wednesday, July 6, and lasting through Thursday, July 7.
DEEP air quality analysts said weather patterns over the next few days will create elevated ground-level ozone pollution in all of Connecticut the next two days.
“We are expecting air quality that will impact all of our citizens especially the most vulnerable residents — children, the elderly and those with respiratory disease such as asthma,” said Commissioner Robert Klee. “It will also impact healthy adults working or exercising outdoors — to minimize health impacts while working outdoors avoid prolonged strenuous activity and best if you exercise before noon or after 8 pm.”
“For the thousands of children and adults in Connecticut who live with asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions, unhealthy air on hot summer days can trigger or worsen respiratory ailments,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino. “On poor air quality days, people with respiratory conditions should avoid prolonged periods of time outdoors by staying in cool, air conditioned indoor environments. If exposure to the outdoors is unavoidable, make sure rescue inhalers and medications are readily available and avoid overexertion while outside.”
Weather Conditions Leading to Air Quality Alert
A weak Bermuda high pressure ridge is setting up off the coast of the southeastern U.S. for the middle of the week. Temperatures are expected to rise into the upper 80’s and low 90’s both Wednesday and Thursday. Winds will be light out of the south-southwesterly direction. This will transport elevated levels of ozone from upwind air pollution sources into Connecticut on both of those days. These conditions may extend into Friday as well. A cool front should push into the state by Saturday morning.
More Protective Ozone Standard
Multi-day air quality alerts have been rare in recent years. With increased understanding of the dangers of ozone in the air increases, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a more protective ozone standard for air quality in October, 2015. This new standard is expected to lead to an increase in the number of forecasted unhealthy air quality days in Connecticut this summer — even though our air quality has steadily improved through the years. EPA’s new national air quality standard for ground level ozone is 70 parts per billion. The previous standard was 75 parts per billion. As science evolves our understanding of ozone increases, which resulted in U.S.
Health Effects of Air Pollution
Ground level or "bad" ozone primarily occurs during warm summer days. Strong sunshine causes chemical reactions of air pollutants emitted from motor vehicles, power plants and industry and household activities, forming ozone. Warmer weather can bring high levels of ground level ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). These two air pollutants pose serious health risks — especially to young children, the elderly, adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory disease.
Unhealthy concentrations of ground level ozone can cause or make worse a variety of respiratory and other health problems including breathing difficulty, coughing, and throat irritation and worsen asthma episodes. Anyone can be affected by ozone; particularly sensitive groups that include children, elderly, people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, and even healthy adults who are very active outdoors. Peak ozone levels occur between noon and 8 p.m. so make sure you get your activity or exercise in before or after these times to minimize health effects.
Weather Conditions Leading to Air Quality Alert
A weak Bermuda high pressure ridge is setting up off the coast of the southeastern U.S. for the middle of the week. Temperatures are expected to rise into the upper 80’s and low 90’s both Wednesday and Thursday. Winds will be light out of the south-southwesterly direction. This will transport elevated levels of ozone from upwind air pollution sources into Connecticut on both Wednesday and Thursday. These conditions may extend into Friday as well. A cool front should push into the state by Saturday morning.
What You Can Do to Help
When air pollution levels are predicted to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups” DEEP recommends:
- Conserving electricity by setting air conditioners to 78o;
- “Wait ‘til 8” to use energy intensive appliances like washing machines, dryers and dishwashers;
- Refueling your lawn mower and cutting the grass before noon;
- Driving less by carpooling, vanpooling or using public transit;
- Telecommuting if possible; and
- Refueling your vehicle after dusk and never idling a vehicle unnecessarily.
We also need long term actions to get to the root of our air pollution problem in the United States. DEEP recommends you also consider these long term energy reducing strategies:
- Make your home or business as energy efficient as possible — this drives down air pollution and puts money back in your pocket;
- Cars and trucks cause over half our air pollution, so consider driving an electric vehicle; and
- Consider investing in renewable energy like solar electric.