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MORPC Issues First Air Quality Alert of Season

April 18, 2016

Spring has finally arrived and along with the warmer weather comes ozone season. MORPC staff recently reminded residents that April 1 marked the beginning of ozone season in the region.

The official ozone season in Central Ohio runs from April through the end of October, with ground-level ozone levels often ramping up in summer months, when temperatures begin to climb and sunlight is more prevalent. Throughout the year, MORPC is responsible for providing residents with important information about the air we breathe– especially for sensitive groups of people such as children, the elderly, and people with breathing disorders like asthma.

MORPC staff uses the national Air Quality Index (AQI) scale to inform the public about daily ozone and particle pollution levels in Central Ohio. The AQI scale runs from 0 to 300 — the higher the AQI value, the greater the health concern. When levels reach above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy for sensitive groups and MORPC will issue an Air Quality Alert.During alerts, sensitive groups are urged to limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Everyone can reduce their exposure to air pollution by saving strenuous outdoor activities for the evening or morning, when pollution levels are generally lower.

“In Central Ohio, the biggest contributor to harmful ozone pollution is vehicle emissions from cars and trucks,” said Evelyn Ebert, MORPC’s Air Quality Program Supervisor.  “We can easily improve local air quality by carpooling, taking public transit, or biking to work.”

You can sign-up online to receive Air Quality Alert notifications delivered straight to your inbox by visitinghttp://airquality.morpc.organd clicking on the ‘sign up for alerts’ button to start receiving these free notifications.

You can also call MORPC’s toll-free air quality hotline at 1-888-666-1009 to listen to the latest forecast to help plan your days accordingly to reduce your exposure to air pollution. The hotline provides information in both English and Spanish.

Last year, the region experienced one unhealthy air day. No Air Quality Alerts were issued in 2014, however pollution levels were overall slightly better during the 2015 summer season compared to the previous two summers, even with temperatures being warmer than normal. This points to a lower volume of ozone-forming pollutants in the air, indicating that local efforts to improve air quality are working. However, there is still work to be done.

A new federal ozone rule tightened the federal ozone standard. The new standard is based on recent studies regarding the health effects of ozone pollution on those who would be most sensitive. Pollution levels are measured in parts per billion (ppb) to determine attainment with the standard. Based on preliminary data, Central Ohio’s 2012-2015 average was 71 ppb. The current standard that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups is 75 ppb, but that standard has been strengthened to 70 ppb. Central Ohio is on the right path to meet the stronger standard.