BALTIMORE, MD (July 17, 2013) – With some of the hottest weather of the summer increasing the potential for bad air quality, the Maryland Department of the Environment reminds residents to take steps to protect their health and the air we breathe.
The air quality forecast for today through Friday for metropolitan Baltimore, the Maryland portion of metropolitan Washington and Maryland’s Eastern Shore is “Code Orange.” A Code Orange forecast indicates that air quality is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and adults with respiratory and heart ailments. Those groups should limit time outside.
To protect the air – and, in turn, everyone’s health – on bad air days you should: avoid or reduce driving (use public transportation, carpool or telework); reduce car idling; refuel your car after dusk; use a propane grill instead of charcoal; avoid mowing the lawn or use an electric mower; and delay painting and avoid using aerosol products.
So far in 2013, there have been three Code Orange Days and no Code Red days in the Baltimore region. In the Maryland portion of the metropolitan Washington region, there has been one Code Orange day and no Code Red days. Clean Air Partners’ Air Quality Action Guide includes an explanation of air quality ratings, from Code Green for good air quality to Code Purple for very unhealthy air.
The quality of the air across Maryland continues to show measurable signs of improvement, the Maryland Department of the Environment's review of preliminary monitoring results from 2012 shows. Hot weather is a significant factor in the formation of the pollutant ground-level ozone, but the ratio of bad air days to temperature has declined over the years in Maryland.
For air quality forecasts and information on air quality, go to MDE’s website or to cleanairpartners.net, where you can sign up to receive emailed air quality alerts. Clean Air Partners also offers a free smart phone app to receive air quality forecasts. You can also call MDE’s air quality hotline at 410-537-3247.
Air pollution levels typically peak during the summer, when air can stagnate and the sun reacts with chemical compounds to form ground-level ozone. Health effects associated with ozone include decreased lung function, asthma attacks, and eye irritation.MDE collects air quality readings hourly at 24 sites across Maryland. The readings are for levels of such pollutants as ground-level ozone, fine particles, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, along with oxides of nitrogen, compounds that when warmed by the sun can create ozone. The readings are given a numerical value, with ranges that indicate levels of health concern. MDE provides current readings for a map that is displayed online.MDE meteorologists combine their knowledge of how pollutants react to weather with the predicted weather for upcoming days to develop air quality forecasts.
Preliminary results of 2012 air quality monitoring data show continued improvements in our State’s air quality thanks to decades of sustained efforts and the continued strong support of Maryland’s air quality programs by Governor Martin O’Malley. With Maryland’s implementation of the Healthy Air Act, the Clean Cars Act, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, energy conservation and renewable energy goals, the scientific evidence shows that Maryland has effective controls in place to address the air pollution generated in-State. However, the science also demonstrates clearly that Maryland cannot fully meet air quality standards that protect public health unless air pollution generated outside of our State’s borders is controlled. Research indicates that states upwind of Maryland are responsible for as much as 70 percent of Maryland’s current air quality problem. Therefore, reducing emissions in upwind states is the key to solving our air quality problems.
Studies have indicated that climate change, if unaddressed, could result in increased ozone and fine particle levels, increasing adverse health effects. Governor O'Malley will release his final Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan July 25, which includes implementation of policies to mitigate these harmful air quality issues.
What You Can Do
“Breathing clean air is something most of us take for granted. But if you have respiratory concerns such as asthma, poor air quality is something that can’t be ignored. We all make choices everyday that can help reduce air pollution.”
--Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230