Unhealthy air quality predicted for Friday

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is forecasting unhealthy air quality for “sensitive groups” Friday, May 8.

The unhealthy air quality is caused by predicted elevated ground-level ozone pollution for Northern Fairfield, Northern New Haven, Litchfield, Hartford and Tolland Counties.

A forecast of “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” indicates increased likelihood of respiratory symptoms and breathing discomfort in active children and adults with respiratory disease, such as asthma and the elderly.

Ground level or “bad” ozone primarily occurs during very 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 to “sensitive groups.”

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.

High pressure currently located off mid-Atlantic Coast today and Friday will continue to transport warmer air and pump elevated levels of ozone from downwind air pollution sources into Connecticut. In addition to transported air pollution, our “home grown” pollution will be intensified by the combination of strong May sunlight and later than usual blooming spring vegetation that also contributes to ozone levels at this time of year, according to the state agency. A back door cold front will cross the area late Friday afternoon, switching the wind to the south and southeast ushering cooler ocean air, thus reducing high concentrations of ground level ozone on Saturday.

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;

• Driving less by carpooling, vanpooling or using public transit;

• Telecommuting if possible;

• Refueling your vehicle after dusk and never idling a vehicle unnecessarily;

• Remembering that 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.