‘Unhealthy’ air quality through Saturday

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is forecasting unhealthy air quality for “sensitive groups” on Thursday, July 18 through Saturday, July 20, due to predicted elevated concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution.

The highest levels of ozone will likely occur across south central and southeastern coastal Connecticut on Thursday. This area of unhealthy air quality for “sensitive groups” is forecasted to expand into further inland Connecticut on Friday and Saturday.

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.

Health effects

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.

These sensitive groups who experience effects at lower ozone concentrations are likely to experience more serious effects at higher concentrations; and should avoid strenuous outdoor activities and consider remaining indoors in an air conditioned environment.

More detailed information on health effects from high levels of ozone can be found by clickinghere.

Ground level ozone formation

Ground level or “bad” ozone is created when two types of air pollutants, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), react in the presence of sunlight and warm temperatures.

These air pollutants are generated both inside and outside of Connecticut from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, and gasoline vapors.

Air pollution is also transported into Connecticut on prevailing westerly winds from the Ohio River Valley and from the southwest along the Interstate 95 urban corridor from Washington, D.C.

Weather summary

High pressure that has been located across the Great Lakes and New York State during the last couple of days has slowly moved off to the south and east of Connecticut.

The clockwise circulation around the high that had caused the wind to be from the northwest, keeping ozone levels low, has switched to west-southwest; and will continue to transport the heat and humidity into Connecticut during the next three days conducive to the formation of very high levels of ozone pollution.

A strong cold front will end the seven-day heat wave as it moves across the region late Saturday, with a band of showers and thunderstorms.  A wind direction shift back to the northwest will usher in a cooler air mass for Sunday, putting an end to the heat wave and high concentrations of ground level ozone.

What you can do to help

Connecticut experienced 27 unhealthy air quality days during 2012 and 12 unhealthy air quality days so far this year.

When air pollution levels are predicted to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups” DEEP recommends.

— Conserving electricity by setting air conditioners to 78 degrees.

“Wait ‘til 8″ to use energy intensive appliances like washing machines, dryers and dishwashers.

— Driving less by carpooling, van-pooling or using public transit;

— Telecommuting if possible.

— Refueling your vehicle after dusk and never idling a vehicle unnecessarily.