The Maine Department of Environment Protection issued a statement Friday alerting the public about what it says will be “unhealthy [ozone] levels along the coast from Kittery through Acadia” on Saturday.
Elevated ozone in the atmosphere can result in reduced lung function and irritation in children, adults who physically exert themselves, or people who have respiratory disease such as asthma, bronchitis or COPD, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the Department of Environment Protection.
“Ozone levels have been in the unhealthy range for several days this week in southern New England,” Department of Environment Protection officials said in the statement. “Winds are expected to begin transporting these high levels toward Maine after midnight, setting the stage for unhealthy-for-sensitive-groups levels of ozone along coastal Maine on Saturday.”
People affected by elevated ozone levels may notice a shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation or chest discomfort, state officials indicated. Avoiding strenuous outdoor activity in the afternoon is a way to reduce the likelihood of experiencing these symptoms, they added.
More moderate ozone levels are expected for interior western Maine on Saturday. Particle pollution levels are expected to be in the moderate range along much of the coast, except for Washington County, and in western regions.
John Kelly, spokesman for Acadia National Park, said Friday that the park plans to monitor air quality conditions and to keep the public apprised through its social media accounts. He said park staff have been made aware of the weather forecast and will be alert on Saturday for any visitors who may need help.
He said the park does not plan to take additional measures such as closing facilities, which it has done when high temperatures create stifling heat in park buildings that lack air conditioning. Such closures are rare and, when they do happen, typically occur in late summer rather than in late May, he added.
Kelly said high ozone levels do not warrant the closure of facilities, which in such circumstances can have better interior air quality than the outdoors. Friday’s alert is directed at people with conditions that make them sensitive to air quality, he said, but not to the general public.
“We’re going to take the usual precautions in alerting the public,” Kelly said of Saturday’s air quality forecast.
The Department of Environment Protection, in its statement, urged sports coaches, elder care workers, nurses and others who may be responsible for people most affected by poor air quality to keep track of conditions by using the department’s online air quality forecast page, which has information and links to notification services where the public can get the latest updates. Air quality information is available also by calling DEP’s toll-free hotline at 800-223-1196.
More information about heat-related illness or asthma can be found on the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/. The federal Environmental Protection Agency also has information about asthma on its website.