Southern N.E. Leads Region in Unhealthy Air Quality Days

By ecoRI News staff

New Englanders experienced a slight increase in the number of unhealthy air quality days this year, compared to 2014 and 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Based on preliminary data collected between April and September, there were 24 days when ozone monitors in New England recorded concentrations above levels considered healthy. By contrast, in 2014 there were a total of 9 unhealthy ozone days, and in 2013 there were a total of 20 such days.

Here is a look at the number of unhealthy ozone days in each New England state this year:
Connecticut: 22 days (compared to 8 in 2014 and 18 in 2013)
Rhode Island: 4 days (0 and 7)
Massachusetts: 3 days (0 and 6)
Maine: 2 days (0 and 5)
New Hampshire: 2 days (1 and 3)
Vermont: 0 days (0 in both 2014 and 2013)

Although the number of unhealthy days may vary from year to year due to weather conditions, over the long term, New England has experienced a significant decrease in the number of unhealthy ozone days, according to the EPA. In 1983, New England had 113 unhealthy days, compared with 24 this year. This downward trend is due to a reduction in the emissions that form ozone.

Ozone levels are unhealthy when average concentrations exceed 0.075 parts per million over an 8-hour period. Ground-level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen chemically react in the presence of sunlight. Last November, EPA proposed strengthening the ozone standard, based on extensive scientific evidence, and will be finalizing its decision on a new ozone standard soon.

Although the 2015 ozone season is ending, pollution from small particles in the air is a year-round concern, according to the EPA.