BOSTON – Rhode Island experienced seven unhealthy air quality days this year, compared with 12 days in 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Regional Office reported Monday.
The findings, based on preliminary data collected between April and September, showed that air quality monitors throughout New England recorded 20 days when ozone exceeded levels considered healthy. Last year, the region experienced 29 unhealthy ozone days.
In Massachusetts, the EPA reported only six unhealthy air quality days, compared with 17 days in 2012.
“We can all feel proud – and breathe easier – thanks to the exceptional progress we have made reducing ozone pollution over the past several decades,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of the EPA’s New England office, in a release. “However, the poor air quality days we experienced this summer remind us that our efforts to protect the public’s health by improving air quality must continue. Everybody can save money and protect the environment by taking common-sense steps to conserve energy.”
Spalding recommended using energy-efficient light bulbs, combining car trips when running errands and using public transit as a few ways to save energy and cut down on air pollution.
Although the number of unhealthy air quality days in a given year may vary due to weather conditions, the 2013 figures reflect the prevailing downward trend of the last 30 years, the EPA report stated. In 1983, New England had 113 unhealthy days, compared with 20 this year.
Among the six New England states, Vermont was the only state to report no unhealthy ozone days during the summer. Last year, Vermont also reported zero unhealthy days.
Connecticut saw its unhealthy day count drop to 17 from 27 in 2012, while New Hampshire’s fell to 3 days from 4 days last year. Maine was the only New England state to see an increase in the number of unhealthy ozone days, climbing from 4 days in 2012 to 5 days this year.
Ozone levels are considered unhealthy when average concentrations exceed 0.075 parts per million over an 8-hour period, the EPA report said. Ground-level ozone, the main ingredient of smog, is formed when volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides chemically react in the presence of sunlight.
Pollution from cars, trucks and motorcycles accounts for most smog. Fossil fuels burning at electric power plants, which run at high capacities on hot days, emit substantial amounts of smog-making pollution. Gas stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, and gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment also contribute to smog formation.
Although the 2013 ozone season is ending, pollution from small particles in the air is a year-round concern, the EPA said.
For more information about the air quality index forecast, visit www.epa.gov.