National Air Quality Awareness Week Marks Start of Ozone Season in Maine

May 2, 2011

CONTACT:
Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov/ 287-5842 (office) or 592-0427 (cell)

-The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is using the designated week to remind Mainers about air quality concerns impacting the state and resources available for making informed decisions during elevated pollution periods-

AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service have partnered to promote National Air Quality Awareness Week, which begins today.

The week of May 2-6 was designated to educate the public about air quality concerns and related resources and coincides with the start of ozone season in Maine.

Maine DEP’s meteorologists forecast air quality year-round using the EPA’s color-coded Air Quality Index and the department provides a variety of tools for the public and press to stay informed on the current levels and resulting impacts to human health.

Two pollutants are of primary concern: ozone and particle pollution, with both impacting the lungs and heart. Ozone levels in the state are usually highest from May through September, and particle pollution levels most elevated during the summer and winter months.

On most days in Maine, pollution levels for both are measured in the “good” range (green) but when they rise into the “moderate” range (yellow), individuals who are sensitive to pollution should reduce their exposure and exertion. At the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range (orange), even healthy individuals who are exercising or working strenuously can be negatively affected and should reduce their exposure.

Daily air quality forecasts are available on the department’s website at www.mainedep.com (click on “Maine Air Quality Forecasts”) and via a toll-free hotline which can be accessed by dialing (800) 223-1196.

People who are affected by poor air quality including asthmatics and those with heart conditions as well as those like sports coaches, elder care workers and nurses who are responsible for the welfare of people impacted by poor air quality are also urged to sign up for EnviroFlash, an automated, zip code based electronic alert system that warns when air quality is likely to be poor locally through text messages and email notifications.

Forecasts can also be accessed each day on the Maine DEP Air Bureau’s four Twitter accounts, one for each region where air quality alerts have been issued in recent years including midcoast (Twitter handle: meair_acadia), eastern interior (Twitter handle: meair_bangor), western interior (Twitter handle: meair_lewiston) and the southwest coast (Twitter handle: meair_portland).

Most of Maine’s air quality issues are a result of polluted air being transported in the state, rather than Maine generated pollution explained Martha Webster, a senior meteorologist with Maine DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality.

“Air Quality Awareness Week is an opportunity for Mainers to be reminded of the resources available to them to learn about air quality concerns, its impact on public health and how we can reduce pollution by making minor but meaningful changes in our daily lives,” Webster said. “We hope people will take time this week to familiarize themselves with the tools we offer so they can make informed choices about their health and daily activities as we enter this elevated pollution period.”

For more information about National Air Quality Awareness Week including daily lessons and tools for teachers and weathercasters, visit http://www.epa.gov/airnow/airaware.

For more information about the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and its resources for monitoring air quality, visit http://www.mainedep.com and click “Maine Air Quality Forecasts.”

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