DEEP: New Federal Ozone Standard Will Result In Increased Number Of "Unhealthy" Air Days

April 29, 2008

New Federal Ozone Standard Will Result In
Increased Number Of "Unhealthy" Air Days

There will be an increased number of days this spring and summer officially classified as "unhealthy air days" as a result of a new and more stringent federal ozone standard being put in place, according to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, "With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new ozone standard we will have more days when the air is considered unhealthy. On these days we will be enforcing certain restrictions on the operation of fuel burning equipment as well as asking the public for cooperation in reducing air emissions that contribute to ozone formation."

In the summer of 2007, Connecticut experienced 17 "unhealthy air days." If the new federal ozone standard had been in place for last summer, there would have been 43 "unhealthy air days," – an increase of 26 days. In March, the EPA adopted new regulations moving the standard for ozone from 0.08 part per million (ppm) to 0.075 ppm. The new standard technically goes into effect May 27.

"The ozone standard was tightened," Commissioner McCarthy said, "as the result of increased understanding of the dangerous impact ozone concentrations have on the public’s health. We have made progress in improving the quality of the air we breathe in Connecticut, but there is more work to be done."

Commissioner McCarthy said, "The new ozone standard will allow us to take steps to reduce emissions on an increased number of days when the air is unhealthy. It will also enable us to build increased public awareness of steps people can take to help reduce ozone. Energy efficiency at home and in our choice of transportation has an impact on air quality - and can also save you money. I urge everyone to check out information available from Governor Rell’s ‘One Thing’ campaign, at www.onethingct.com, to see what steps they can take to save energy, improve air quality and reduce their energy costs."

Department of Public Health Commissioner J. Robert Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., said, "It is important for the public to be aware of DEP forecasts of unhealthy ozone days. This is especially true for sensitive people, such as children with asthma or adults with respiratory or heart disease."

Commissioner Galvin added that, "People in these sensitive groups should limit their outside activities on unhealthy ozone days. The DEP and EPA produce a daily Air Quality Index (AQI) that lists the specific warnings for sensitive populations and for the general public. This information is used by many TV weather programs that broadcast the daily AQI index and the forecast for the coming day."

Air Quality Awareness Week Starts May 1

With the start of "Air Quality Awareness Week" on May 1, DEP traditionally begins tracking and sharing air quality information with facilities that maintain emergency power sources.

When it is forecast that ozone levels will exceed the standard, emergency power sources cannot be tested or operated unless there is a true emergency. There are also certain regulatory restrictions that apply on these types of days to facilities used to generate power when demand for electricity is at peak levels.

DEP provides operators of emergency engines and peak demand power plants daily air quality forecasts via email, telephone messaging and on DEP’s Web site. To view air quality information that is updated daily visit DEP’s AQI web page.

What You Can Do to Reduce Ozone

The DEP and DPH encourage the public to help reduce air emissions that create ozone on unhealthy air days. The voluntary steps that people can take on these days include:

  • Conserving energy at home and at work by setting your air conditioner at a higher temperature and turning off unnecessary lights and equipment.
  • Driving cleaner and smarter (more than 50% of Connecticut’s ozone forming pollution comes from cars and trucks)
  • Take the bus, or join a car/van pool www.ctrides.com
  • Don’t idle! It gets 0 MPG!
  • Combine errands and reduce trips
  • Refuel after dusk, if possible
  • Think about emissions and mileage ratings when shopping for your next car – help save the environment while saving some money.
  • Reducing the use of gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment.
  • Using household, workshop, and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or delay using them when unhealthy air quality is forecast.

What is Ozone?

Ozone exists naturally in a layer of the earth's upper atmosphere known as the stratosphere, where it shields the earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.  However, ozone found close to the earth's surface, called ground-level ozone, is a component of smog and a harmful pollutant.

Ground-level ozone is produced by a complex chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight. The major sources of VOCs and NOx include:

  • Automobiles, trucks and buses
  • Gasoline storage, transfer and refueling
  • Large combustion sources at utility and industrial facilities
  • Industrial use of solvents and degreasing agents
  • Off-road engines such as construction equipment, aircraft, locomotives, boats and lawn & garden equipment

How Does Ozone Effect Human Health?

Unhealthy ground-level ozone concentrations may cause a variety of respiratory problems including breathing difficulty, coughing, and throat irritation. Breathing ozone can affect lung function and worsen asthma episodes. Ozone exposure may also contribute to premature death, especially in people with heart and lung disease. Children, adults who are active outdoors, and people with existing respiratory disease such as asthma are the most susceptible to ozone's effects.

People with pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma, should limit outdoor activities on days when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy for sensitive groups or worse.

To Receive Air Quality Information

Anyone interested in receiving the AQI forecast can request this information by email from mgeigert@list.state.ct.us

Anyone interesting in receiving daily email updates of the air quality forecast for their specific town can subscribe to this service by following the directions on the EPA "EnviroFlash" web site at: www.airnow.gov/