Smog prompts state to issue health advisory

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(Host) The state has issued a smog advisory for southern Vermont. Officials say the air quality is bad enough that people should limit outdoor activities.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) It’s the first time this year the state has recorded a level of smog high enough to warrant an advisory. George Apgar of the Agency of Natural Resources says high smog levels are generally recorded once or twice every summer when conditions are right.

Apgar says there are two monitoring stations at either end of the state. This week, the southern Vermont station in Bennington has recorded levels above the federal ozone standard:

(Apgar) “Ozone in the lower atmosphere, which should not be confused with stratospheric ozone that protects us from UV rays, actually forms in the atmosphere from the reaction of other pollutants in the presence of sunlight.”

(Zind) The people most affected by high levels of ozone are people with respiratory problems due to asthma or smoking. Don Shwartz is a pediatrician with the Health Department. Shwartz says people with asthma should take care to monitor their condition when ozone levels are high. Shwartz says even those without respiratory problems can show symptoms of ozone exposure, including coughing, nose or throat irritation and shortness of breath:

(Shwartz) “If that’s the situation and you’re otherwise fine, then you just need to limit your exposure to outdoor air when levels are really high. And that means stay in an air conditioned setting. Don’t do big heavy exercise if it means that you’re moving great gulps of air in and out.”

(Zind) The pollutants that produce ozone in Vermont come mostly from cars and industries in the big cities along the eastern seaboard. When warm air flows up the East Coast, ozone levels increase particularly in southern Vermont. With the hot weather forecast to continue, it’s like ozone levels will remain high for another few days.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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