EPA issues air quality warning for Maine coast

Posted June 25, 2013, at 1:12 p.m.

A heat wave will lead to poor air quality Tuesday along coastal Maine from Acadia National Park south, according to an alert issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency warned of high concentrations of ground-level ozone, which forms when volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen interact in the presence of strong sunlight.

“We predict that Tuesday will be an unhealthy air quality day in parts of New England,” Curt Spalding, administrator of EPA’s New England office, said in a new release. “On these hot, humid and smoggy days, EPA and the medical community suggest that people limit their strenuous outdoor activity.”

The EPA issues air quality alerts when ozone concentrations are predicted to exceed a level of 0.075 parts per million on average over eight hours. So far this year, there have been seven days in New England, including two that affected Maine, when ozone concentrations have exceeded the standard.

Electrical generating stations, cars, trucks, and buses give off the majority of the pollution that creates ozone. Gasoline stations, print shops, household products such as paints and cleaners, and lawn and garden equipment also contribute.

Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection. When ozone levels are elevated, individuals are advised to refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially children and adults with respiratory problems.

When ozone is forecast to be unhealthy, reduce the risk by:

— Reducing electrical demand by turning air conditioners to a higher temperature setting; turning off unnecessary lights and appliances, such as televisions, computers, or lights during the day; and deferring household activities like laundry until later hours.

— Using public transportation, carpooling, and/or combining trips.

— Avoiding the use of small gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers and tractors, chain saws, power washers, string trimmers and leaf blowers.

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