Poor air quality days in N.E. down for ’08

Posted Sept. 22, 2008, at 7:14 p.m.

BOSTON (AP) — New Englanders experienced fewer poor air quality days this year compared with 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the New England region reported in a press release Monday.

Based on preliminary data collected from April through September, ozone monitors in New England recorded concentrations above the health standard on 28 days. In 2007, there were 53 unhealthful ozone days.

Maine recorded three unhealthful days during the time period. Over the same period in 2007, 14 unhealthful days were recorded in Maine.

The other New England states recorded:

    Connecticut: 22 unhealthful days (compared with 42 in 2007).

      Massachusetts: 18 (38).

        New Hampshire: eight (22).

          Rhode Island: six (18).

            Vermont: three (none).

            According to the press release, the overall decrease in the number of days with unhealthful air was directly related to the decrease in the number of hot days, combined with the longer-term decline in air pollution emissions causing ozone smog. Sunlight and high temperatures speed the formation of ground-level ozone, and most areas in New England had fewer days exceeding 90 degrees this summer than last summer. In addition, this summer there were many days with heavy showers and thunderstorms that helped keep ozone levels low.

            New England has experienced a decreasing number of unhealthful ozone days over the long term, and peak ozone concentrations have decreased significantly in the past 30 years, the release said. In 1983, New England had 113 unhealthful days, compared with 28 this summer.

            Earlier this year, the EPA lowered the level of the ozone air quality health standard to 0.075 parts per million on an eight-hour average basis.

            Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause serious breathing problems, and aggravate asthma and other existing lung diseases.

            Although the 2008 ozone season has ended, pollution from fine particles (soot) in the air remains a year-round concern. The daily air quality index forecast will continue to be available on the EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/ne/aqi.

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