HARRISBURG – Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today announced the beginning of the 2007 ozone season, which runs through mid-September. DEP publishes daily ozone reports using weather forecasts to predict when concentrations of ground-level ozone may reach unhealthy levels or exceed federal health-based standards.
“High levels of ground-level ozone affect everyone, especially children, the elderly and people with respiratory illnesses,” McGinty said. “This ozone season, I invite you to work with us to reduce ozone levels by making small changes in your daily activities, like carpooling to work and taking advantage of public transportation. With the high cost of fuel, these ideas will save you money and help stretch the family budget.
“Cutting automobile emissions is key to reducing ozone and improving our air quality, which is why Governor Rendell so vigorously endorsed Pennsylvania’s Clean Vehicles Program,” the Secretary said. “Beginning with the 2008 model year, new cars and light duty truck under 8,500 pounds must meet stricter air quality standards, putting Pennsylvania on the path to cleaner, healthier air.”
Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the skin by shielding it from harmful ultraviolet rays, but ground-level ozone is a key component of smog. It forms during warm weather when pollution from vehicles, industry, households and power plants “bakes” in the hot sun, making it hard for some people to breathe.
Young children, the elderly, people with asthma or other lung ailments, and those who work or exercise regularly outdoors are most susceptible to the harmful effects of ground-level ozone.
DEP is partnering with the Susquehanna Valley, Southwest Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley/Berks County air quality partnerships to provide daily ozone forecasts.
Residents can receive early warnings about bad air days by signing up to receive the daily forecasts via e-mail. The forecast features the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standardized Air Quality Index that uses color to represent ozone concentrations (green signifies good, yellow means moderate, orange represents unhealthy ozone levels for sensitive people, and red warns of unhealthy ozone levels for everyone). DEP also provides year-round forecasts for fine particulate matter, commonly called PM2.5.
DEP meteorologists issue daily ozone forecasts at 2 p.m. for the Susquehanna Valley, Southwest Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley/Berks County air quality partnership regions. The southeast region maintains its own forecasts through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
Individuals who do not have Internet access can call the partnership’s toll-free ozone hotlines: Susquehanna Valley, 1-888-772-1306; Lehigh Valley/Berks County, 1-877-517-2969; Southwest Pennsylvania, 1-800-333-7688; and Southeast Pennsylvania, 1-800-872-7261.
Some tips to follow during high ozone days include the following:
— Refuel vehicles after dark. Avoid spilling gasoline and stop fueling when the pump shuts off automatically.
— Conserve energy. Don’t overcool homes. Turn off lights and appliances that are not in use. Wash clothes and dishes only in full loads.
— Limit daytime driving. Consider carpooling or taking public transportation. Properly maintain vehicles.
— Limit outdoor activities such as lawn mowing or sports to the evening hours.
To help make people aware of ozone and particle pollution, DEP maintains relationships with various community groups, businesses and local governments, forming air quality partnerships in southwestern Pennsylvania (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland
counties), the Delaware Valley (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties), the Susquehanna Valley (Cumberland, Dauphin,
Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties) and the Lehigh Valley/Berks County region (Lehigh, Berks and Northampton counties).
These partnerships inform people about the dangers of ground-level ozone and fine particle matter, and encourage them to take voluntary actions to reduce their contributions to air pollution.
To find out about the partnerships or to sign up to receive the forecast by e-mail, go to www.aqpartners.org. Visit www.airqualitypartnership.org for details about DVRPC. To learn more about ozone and air quality in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s Web site at www.depweb.state.pa.us, DEP keyword “Air Quality.”