DEEP: Unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups Saturday and Monday

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is forecasting unhealthy air quality “for sensitive groups” beginning Saturday, July 16, and again on Monday, July 18.

DEEP air quality analysts said weather patterns over the next few days will create elevated ground-level ozone pollution over coastal Connecticut on Saturday. Ozone levels are then expected to drop to good to moderate levels for a day on Sunday before becoming unhealthy for all of Connecticut on Monday.

“Over the next two of the three days, we are expecting air quality that will impact children, the elderly and those with respiratory disease such as asthma,” said Commissioner Robert Klee. “It is advised that those people with respiratory and other health problems limit their time outdoors and avoid prolonged strenuous activities or exercise.”

Weather Conditions Leading to Air Quality Alert

A weak cold front approaches on Saturday and slides off the coast on Sunday.  Hot and humid weather continues on Saturday, but moderates a bit Saturday night and Sunday as weak high pressure moves to the southeast States by Monday. This leads to a return flow of southwest winds on Monday with warmer temperatures. A cold front is expected to cross the State by Tuesday morning, putting an end to this round of elevated ozone levels.

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.

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 12:00 pm and 8:00 pm so make sure you get your activity or exercise in before or after these times to minimize health effects.

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.

Stay connected and access the daily AQI forecast and real-time air quality data

Visit DEEP’s AQI webpage or call 1-800-249-1234