DEEP predicts unhealthy air quality through Saturday

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is forecasting unhealthy air quality for “sensitive groups” from Wednesday, May 25 through Saturday, May 28 due to predicted elevated ground-level ozone pollution for Southern Fairfield, Southern New Haven, Southern Middlesex and Southern New London Counties.

These areas are expected to experience unhealthy air quality for “sensitive groups.”

“As Connecticut prepares for Memorial Day weekend and temperatures begin to warm up this week, we are expecting air quality that could impact our most susceptible residents, including children, the elderly and those with respiratory disease such as asthma,” said Commissioner Rob Klee. The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer and it’s a great time to kick back, relax and spend time with family and friends at the beach or any of Connecticut’s 109 State Parks. “If you do venture out to one of our beautiful state parks or forests this weekend,” said Klee, “I hope everyone will do their part to help improve air quality by car-pooling and arriving early.”

Multi-day air quality alerts have been rare in recent years. However, in October 2015 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the national air quality standard for ground level ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. As science evolves our understanding of ozone increases, which resulted in U.S. EPA setting a more protective ozone standard that may 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.

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 p.m. and 8 p.m. so make sure you get your activity or exercise in before or after these times to minimize health effects.

Weather Summary

Low pressure, currently located off the New England Coast today, will move out to sea on Wednesday as a high pressure ridge builds to our west. Temperatures are expected to rise into the upper 80’s on Wednesday on westerly winds and full sunshine. Along the coast, winds will turn southwest, which will transport elevated levels of ozone from upwind air pollution sources into coastal Connecticut. If a weak back-door cold front stalls just north of the area on Friday and Saturday, elevated levels of ground level ozone will persist through Saturday, when a maritime high pressure center is expected to usher in cooler and cleaner ocean air.

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.

Knowledge is power! Ask your school if they participate in the School Flag Program, EPA’s Air Quality awareness tool that uses colored flags based on the AQI to notify teachers, students, administrators and the local community of air quality conditions.

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

  • Follow us on Twitter

  • Sign up to get Air-Quality alerts through Enviroflash

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

  • Go to EPA’s AIRNow web page

Ozone Monitoring Season

DEEP monitors, tracks and forecasts daily air quality levels across Connecticut for ozone from May 1 through September 30 each year and for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) each day of the year. On April 30, 2016, DEEP began informing Connecticut’s regulated community and the general public of the ozone season via the State of Connecticut E-mail list serve and posting air quality forecasts on the DEEP web page, available here.

DEEP encourages daycare providers, summer camps and elder/senior centers to subscribe to the Air Quality Index (AQI). Subscribing to the AQI is fast and easy and will provide you with important information each day about Connecticut’s air quality through the spring and summer. The AQI link provides facts and information regarding ground-level ozone, its’ health effects, what today on high ozone day, and most importantly what you can do to help reduce ground level ozone in your backyard.