January 21, 2020

Smog days double in New England; hot weather streak cited

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The number of smog days in New England doubled this year compared with last year, an increase federal officials blamed on a streak of hot summer weather.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday reported that the number of unhealthful ozone days doubled to 26 this year from 13 last year.

Rhode Island had eight days of unhealthful air this summer, an increase from four in 2004.

The picture was worse in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Both those states had 20 days of unhealthful air this summer – up from six last year in Connecticut and eight last year in Massachusetts.

New Hampshire had three unhealthful air days last year, compared with four the year before. Maine had four compared with one in 2004, while Vermont had no smog days last year, compared with one the previous year.

EPA officials attributed the increases to an unusual number of 90-degree days this summer. Sunlight and warm weather accelerate the production of ground-level ozone, more commonly called smog.

A record demand for electricity, used to run air conditioning, is also a factor contributing to air pollution, the EPA said. The high demand forces power plants to run at or near peak capacity, which increases pollution from the plants.

Exposure to high levels of ozone can make people more susceptible to respiratory infection and harm those with asthma and other breathing ailments.

Over the long term, ozone levels have declined in the region, the EPA said. For example, in 1983, New England had 90 unhealthful days, more than three times the number in 2005.

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