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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 5/16/01
01/51
CONTACT: Amy Collings NJDEP 609-984-1795
or MARY MEARS USEPA 212-637-3669

NEW OZONE INFORMATION AVAILABLE

[Find out today's Air Quality] New Jerseyans concerned about air quality have a new resource available through the state Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) website. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed new materials to help the news media educate the public about the harmful effects of summertime smog and steps to reduce risk.

The new resources were unveiled at a news conference today at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City hosted by the Ozone Action Partnership, a bi-state program to increase ozone awareness among employee groups and the general public.

While the summer ozone season normally runs from mid-May through September, New Jersey has already had six days this month when the air was unhealthful due to high ozone levels. Ozone, or smog, forms when air pollutants from cars, power plants and other combustion sources combine in the heat of the summer sun. Small children, the elderly, asthmatics and others with respiratory problems are especially vulnerable to the effects of ozone, which can decrease lung function even in healthy individuals.

"Residents throughout the Northeast can now get a better understanding of the size of our ozone problem through the Internet by viewing real-time regional maps with color-coded indicators of the potential health threat that ozone presents on any given day this summer," said DEP Air Quality Management Administrator John Elston, in announcing the accessibility of regional maps on the state's website.

The maps are based on information collected by DEP and other state air monitoring stations. The EPA converts the data into easy-to-read color coded maps. The maps can be accessed through the DEP website at www.state.nj.us/dep/airmon or through the EPA website at www.epa.gov/airnow and clicking on ozone maps.

The new EPA materials, which can be downloaded from EPA's website, help the news media explain ozone formation, the associated health risks, and steps that can be taken to reduce emissions and minimize exposure.

"Ozone is a serious health threat, especially to vulnerable populations including small children, asthmatics and those with other respiratory problems. On days when ozone levels are high, hospital admissions increase, and even healthy persons can suffer lung tissue damage over time," said Raymond Werner, Chief of the Air Programs Branch for EPA Region 2. "These new materials are designed to help convey the important message that every resident should limit outdoor activities and can take actions such as not driving, to reduce emissions and the associated health risks."

Individuals are encouraged to consolidate trips, carpool, use public transportation, limit use of gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers, and avoid car idling. It is recommended that healthy persons avoid strenuous outdoor activity such as jogging, and at-risk populations reduce outdoor activities.

Persons sensitive to ozone, and those supervising at-risk populations, such as day-care centers, can take advantage of an information service offered by DEP. The state will automatically send e-mail to daycare centers, asthmatics and other s who request notification when unhealthy ozone levels are anticipated, so they may revise any planned outdoor activities accordingly.

To reduce ozone levels and related health risks, businesses and agencies can join the Ozone Action Partnership to be automatically notified when ozone levels are expected to be unhealthful so workers can carpool, telecommute or take other actions to reduce emissions and exposure. New Jersey Transit offers partnership members $2 round-trip tickets for their employees to use on any NJ Transit bus or train line on days when high ozone levels are predicted. More than 500 companies and organizations have already joined the partnership.

For more information on the partnership or OzonePass, organizations can contact NJ Transit at 973-491-7222. For comprehensive ozone information, visit www.epa.gov/airnow. To be placed on a list for electronic notification of unhealthy ozone levels, visit www.state.nj.us/dep/airmon and click on "Forecasts Via E-mail." Residents also can tune in to New Jersey Network where the Nightly News weather reports include local ozone forecasts, or call the DEP Air Quality Hotline at 1-800-782-0160 for a pre-recorded message on the day's air quality and tomorrow's forecast.

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