As Connecticut is on track for the first heat wave of the year, another major concern is air quality.
The Department of Energy and Environment Protection has forecasted unhealthy air quality Tuesday for "sensitive groups." That is due to "predicted elevated ground-level ozone pollution," or O3, in southern Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties.
The warning about unhealthy air quality takes into account how the air could cause possible breathing discomfort and respiratory symptoms for children who are active, adults suffering from respiratory diseases like asthma and elderly residents, according to DEEP.
“It’s been a while since our last official heat wave, so I want to remind everyone to take simple precautions when temperatures are high and air quality is poor,” Commissioner Rob Klee said. “Summer time in Connecticut is a great time to be outdoors, but be sure to drink plenty of water and get to an air conditioned room if you need to cool down and catch your breath.”
In addition to breathing challenges in the poor air quality, heightened ground ozone levels could cause coughing, throat irritation and worse asthma episodes, especially for sensitive groups. Unhealthy ozone levels are most likely on hot days in the summer due to strong sunshine, which "causes chemical reactions of air pollutants emitted from motor vehicles, power plants and industry and household activities, forming ozone, according to DEEP.
"Warmer weather can bring high levels of ground level ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5)," DEEP officials said. "These two air pollutants pose serious health risks – especially to young children, elderly, adults who are active outdoors, and people with existing respiratory disease."
High pressure on the southeastern coast of the country could usher warm air and "elevated levels of ozone from downwind air pollution sources" into the state. The ground level ozone level should decrease Wednesday after a cold front moves into Connecticut later on Tuesday.
DEEP tracks ozone and particulate matter in the state's air quality May 1 to Sept. 30 annually
DEEP offers the following tips on how you can help when air pollution levels are high:
- Set your air conditioners to 78 degrees to conserve energy.
- Wait until 8 p.m. to use washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and other "energy intensive appliances."
- Car pool or use public transportation to cut down on driving.
- If you can, telecommute.
- Wait until after dusk to fill up your gas tanks and don't idle your vehicle if possible.
Here are other long-term things you can do:
- Make your home or business energy efficient to cut down on air pollution and save money.
- Over half of our country's air pollution is caused by cars and trucks, so drive an electric vehicle if you can.
- Consider solar electric energy and alternative energy options.
More information about air quality and ozone levels is available at airnow.gov. You can also follow DEEP on Twitter for more information, sign up for air quality alerts through Enviroflash or call 1-800-248-1234.