A poor air quality alert has been issued for portions of Connecticut today and will likely continue through tomorrow. The threat is highest during the afternoon and early evening, especially in highly populated areas such as New Haven. But what does this actually mean for you?
Anyone with sensitive breathing should limit time outdoors. While there is no immediate danger from being outside, young children and the elderly may be negatively affected from prolonged time outdoors. It is also very important to stay hydrated not only every day but especially days when the air quality is lower.
Why is the air quality so poor?
Every so often here in Connecticut we deal with periods of poor air quality. As temperatures rise, air quality will lower not only here, but throughout the United States, it’s inevitable. Why does it happen and how can we help to prevent this problem in the future? First, lets understand what’s meant when the air quality decreases.
As we get into these days with extreme heat and humidity the atmosphere heats up quickly. The sun is literally baking the atmosphere just like an oven or a sauna would bake the air inside, but on a much LARGER scale. The rays from the sun will cook the particles suspended in the atmosphere such as nitrogen as well as volatile organic compounds emitted by cars, buses, trucks, and construction equipment. The reaction that takes place will cause a lowering in air quality due to the formation of a ground level gas called ozone (Bad ozone).
You may have heard of ozone before, “Good Ozone” is a layer of ozone in the atmosphere 15-35 miles high in the sky that helps to protect us from the sun’s UV rays. Both ozone in the upper atmosphere and on the ground level are essentially the same thing, however it becomes bad ozone due to its location. When we go through a few days with high heat, light winds and no rain, the air becomes stagnate causing ozone to build up to levels that violate federal and state health-based standards.
Who does it affect?
Most of the impacts from poor air quality are considered short-term because they eventually cease once ozone levels subside. However, repeated exposure to high levels of ozone may cause permanent damage to the lungs. People who work outside, children, the elderly, and people who are sensitive to changes in the air may experience a tough time breathing, watery eyes, coughing and wheezing. Other health problems such as dizziness and being lightheaded are also common if you are outside for a prolonged period of time.
What can we do to help?
You may notice during times with poor air quality that there are areas of smog in urban locations. The gasses from our vehicles literally fuel the problem during these times. Poor visibility due to pollutants in the air is something that we can control. So what are some things that we as a whole can do to help this issue?
- Drive with a friend to work: It may not be convenient but it will sure help the environment. Carpooling with a friend or a family member will help to minimize the emissions that are released into the atmosphere. This will cause there to be less chemicals in the air for the sun to cook up during these hot days!
- Why is your vehicle idling?: It’s summer time! No need to warm up your car when it’s in the upper 80s to low 90s! Shut your car off when you run into the bank or the store. Just by shutting your car off for the ten minutes, it will help to reduce the amount of gasses put into the air!
- Cooking outside? If you are grilling outside, use a gas grill instead of charcoal. This will cause less pollutants to enter the atmosphere. Although your food might not taste as good, you’re helping the environment.
- Why not go natural? Try avoiding using hair spray or other aerosols during the few days where the air quality is low. Doing so will cause there to be less particles in the air to react.
So now what?
Although getting rid of poor air quality immediately during these hot days is impossible, these quick tips may prevent it from getting worse during the stretch of warm weather. But how about for the future? Considering purchasing electric-powered equipment instead of gas when you go to buy your next toy in the lawn/garden section at your local hardware store. Any way in reducing pollutants that escape into the atmosphere will help the next time we have extreme heat!
We’re expecting temperatures today to be near 90°F and exceed 90°F tomorrow across parts of the state. For a look at the full forecast, click here!
Thanks for reading
Meteorologist Kevin Arnone