June 25, 2008

Summer’s First Ozone Warning Issued for Today

By Gary Gray, Bristol Herald Courier, Va.

Jun. 25--People with lung diseases, children or those who planned outdoor activities today may want to rethink their plans and play it safe.

The Ozone Action Partnership for Northeast Tennessee has called for an Ozone Action Day for today.

"The ozone season for Northeast Tennessee runs from mid-April through mid-September, and this is our third action day," said Bill Sorah, who is chairman of the partnership and a deputy city manager/public works for Bristol, Tenn.

The Tennessee Division of Air Pollution Control forecast today's air quality in the area as unhealthy for sensitive groups.

"The air-quality ranking is just above the moderate level," Sorah said. "It is not an extreme condition, but certain people are advised to curtail outdoor activities."

Sorah said the level of air quality is "typical" for what is seen in the region around this time of year. The worst air quality can be expected when temperatures and humidity are both at the highest.

"Still, I think you need to make sure the public knows that certain behaviors should be modified or postponed [today]," he said. "At this level, you'll see a range of air particles at 100-150 parts per billion. The most serious levels are 200-300 parts per billion."

Today's high temperatures are forecast to be at or above 90 degrees in the region with no chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tenn. Temperatures Thursday also are expected to hover in the 90s with only a slight chance of rain, and Friday's high is expected to drop to the mid-80s with a 30 percent chance of rain, according to the NWS.

Ozone in the air we breathe can harm our health, particularly on hot, sunny days when it can reach unhealthy levels. Ozone exposure may also increase the risk of premature death from heart or lung disease, said Gary Mayes, the Sullivan County Regional Health Department's regional director and Ozone Action Partnership member.

"Typically, May and June are a little tougher, and it's been pretty good for us so far," Mayes said. "We've had fewer action days than in the past, given the hot, sunny days we've had."

Mayes said the region's air quality has been improving thanks to tougher automobile emissions standards and heightened public awareness.


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