The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is warning Mainers to expect unhealthy air quality on Thursday, July 21 along the state’s coast between Kittery and Acadia National Park due to elevated ground-level ozone concentrations.

These unhealthy levels mean individuals in these areas who are sensitive to pollution should reduce their exposure and exertion, said meteorologists from the Bureau of Air Quality said in a news release.

In addition, ozone levels will be moderate for the interior and Down East regions of the state and particle pollution levels will be in the moderate range for the entire state, which may aggravate the health effects of the elevated ozone pollution for sensitive groups.

Exposure to elevated ozone and particle pollution can aggravate existing heart and lung conditions such as asthma or congestive heart disease and cause children and even healthy adults to experience reduced lung function and irritation when exerting themselves.

As a result, Mainers are encouraged to take precaution to protect their health during periods of unhealthy air quality, including avoiding strenuous activity such as jogging alongside busier roads and during mid-day; closing windows and circulating indoor air with a fan or air conditioner; and avoiding exposure.

Ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog, is created by the chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and sunlight. Man-made sources of these compounds include automobiles; trucks and buses; large combustion and industrial sources such as power generating facilities; household products such as paints and cleaners; and gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.

When ozone levels are elevated, the Maine DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency urge the public to take action and help reduce ozone-smog by deferring the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment until after dusk; limiting idling of vehicles; refueling vehicles at night to reduce gasoline vapors getting in the air and coming into contact with the sun to form ozone; and choosing a cleaner commute like public transportation or carpooling.

Maine DEP provides tools for the public and press to stay informed on the current levels and resulting impacts to human health. Daily air quality forecasts are available on the department’s website at mainedep.com (click on “Maine Air Quality Forecasts”) and via a toll-free hotline at 800-223-1196.

Sign up at enviroflash.info for EnviroFlash, an automated, zip code-based electronic alert system that warns when air quality is likely to be poor locally through text messages and email notifications.

Forecasts can also be accessed each day on the Maine DEP Air Bureau’s four Twitter accounts, one for each region where air quality alerts have been issued in recent years including midcoast (Twitter handle: meair_acadia), eastern interior (Twitter handle: meair_bangor), western interior (Twitter handle: meair_lewiston) and the southwest coast (Twitter handle: meair_portland).

As parts of the state experience unusually hot weather over the next two days, the Maine Center for Disease Control is advising Mainers to take precautions to prevent heat illness as extreme heat, especially in conjunction with air quality issues, can be dangerous. Steps to stay safe include staying cool, drinking appropriate fluids and laying low.

Heat and humidity will be highest on Thursday and persist through Friday in the southern and southwestern parts of the state, especially in York, Cumberland and Oxford counties, CDC officials said.

For more information visit maine.gov/dhhs/boh/heat/index.shtml.

Advisory issued as nation’s heat wave approaches

AUGUSTA — Parts of Maine will experience unusually hot weather over the next two days. Heat and humidity will be highest on Thursday and persist through Friday in the southern and southwestern parts of the state, especially in York, Cumberland, and Oxford counties. Nighttime temperatures will also be higher than usual.

The Maine Center for Disease Control in the Department of Health and Human Services advises people in Maine to take precautions to prevent heat illness.

Heat is a serious health threat; every year, more people die from heat than from all other weather events combined. Extreme heat is rare in Maine, but its effects may be even more dangerous, because Maine citizens are not physically acclimated to heat and because many homes and buildings are not air conditioned.

During the past 10 years, Maine CDC has found that rates of hospitalizations and emergency department visits are significantly higher on the hottest days than on cooler days, both for heat illness and for other health conditions, such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and kidney disease, which are exacerbated when the body is taxed by extreme heat.

Heat illness is preventable and people can take simple steps to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors.

How to prevent heat illness:

· Keep cool. Stay inside and out of the sun. Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Spend time in air conditioned spaces – a public library, store, restaurant, movie theater, or cooling center if your home is not air conditioned. Use cold water to cool down; take a cold shower or bath.

· Drink fluids. Drink more fluids then you normally would, regardless of your activity level. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks, as these can be dehydrating.

· Lie low. Take breaks from physical activity at least every hour. Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.).

· Limit activity and protect yourself if you must be outside. Reduce your activity level. If possible, limit your activity to morning and evening hours. If you work outdoors or in a hot place, drink one cup of cool, non-alcoholic fluids every 20 minutes. Take frequent rest breaks in shady or air-conditioned places.

· Look out for others who may be vulnerable. Elderly people, those who live alone, infants and young children, people who work outside and those with existing health conditions or mental illness are most at risk. Check a few times a day on neighbors, friends, and family who may be more susceptible to the heat.
What to do if someone is ill:

Heat stroke is the most dangerous type of heat illness; it occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. Warning signs include dry, hot, red skin (no sweating); a rapid pulse; a high temperature; headache; confusion or loss of alertness; rapid breathing; unconsciousness or coma.

• Call 911 immediately. Move the person out of the sun, loosen their clothes, and cool them rapidly with ice, fans, cool water, or wet cloths.

Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke, and typically occurs when people over-exert in hot or humid weather. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fainting, vomiting, cold, pale, or clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea, and weakness.

• Cool off. Move the person out of the sun, loosen their clothes, and cool them with water or wet cloths. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, get medical help.

For more information, see the Maine CDC’s Heat page at maine.gov/dhhs/boh/heat/index.shtml.