Maine DEP Warns Of Unhealthy Air Quality Levels Along Coast Today, Tomorrow

June 8, 2011

CONTACT:
-Martha Webster, Maine DEP Meteorologist martha.e.webster@maine.gov / 287-8093 -Tom Downs, Maine DEP Chief Meteorologist tom.downs@maine.gov / (207) 287-7026 -Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson/Director of Education & Outreach samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov / (207) 287-5842 (office) or (207) 592-0427 (cell)

-Ozone pollution will be at unhealthy levels today along the southwest coast of the state and tomorrow is expected to expand further up Maine’s coastline-

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is warning Mainers to expect unhealthy air quality today along the state’s southwest coast region between Kittery and Georgetown due to elevated ground-level ozone concentrations.

Meteorologists from the department’s Bureau of Air Quality are further forecasting that these unhealthy levels are expected to expand up the coast from Kittery to Acadia National Park and possibly the state’s entire coastline on Thursday and remain until cleaner air arrives.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is also reporting similar unhealthy air quality levels today and likely into tomorrow for southern coastal Connecticut, all of Rhode Island, the south coast of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the Islands, and coastal New Hampshire.

In addition, particle pollution levels will be in the moderate range for the western portions of Maine on Wednesday and likely moderate statewide on Thursday, meaning that individuals who are sensitive to pollution should reduce their exposure and exertion

Exposure to elevated ozone and particle pollution levels can aggravate existing heart and lung conditions like asthma or congestive heart disease and cause children and even healthy adults to experience reduced lung function and irritation when exerting themselves.

As a result, Mainers are encouraged to take precaution to protect their health during periods of unhealthy air quality, including avoiding strenuous activity, such as jogging, alongside busier roads and during mid-day; closing windows and circulating indoor air with a fan or air conditioner; and avoiding exposure.

Ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog, is created by the chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and sunlight. Man-made sources of these compounds include automobiles; trucks and buses; large combustion and industrial sources such as power generating facilities; household products such as paints and cleaners; and gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.

When ozone levels are elevated, the Maine DEP and the EPA urges the public to take action and help reduce ozone-smog by: choosing a cleaner commute like public transportation or carpooling; deferred the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment until after dusk; limiting idling of vehicles; and refueling vehicles at night to reduce gasoline vapors getting in the air and coming into contact with the sun to form ozone.

Maine DEP provides a variety of tools for the public and press to stay informed on the current levels and resulting impacts to human health. Daily air quality forecasts are available on the department’s website at http://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 at www.enviroflash.info 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).

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