Long Island ozone reaches dangerous levels

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker issued an air quality health advisory for Long Island last week, citing ozone as the main concern.

With ozone levels predicted to rise to a value of 101 on the Air Quality Index, meteorologists and health officials advised that young children and infants, as well as the elderly and people with respiratory issues, such as asthma, to be cautious about strenuous outdoor activities, according to a DEC release. Values of 100 or more are considered hazardous.

Ozone levels are usually at their peak in late afternoon and early evening, during the evening rush hours. Anyone experiencing symptoms of distress, such as shortness of breath, chest pains or coughing should consider seeing a doctor, the statement said.

Ozone levels usually decrease at night.

Long Islanders were urged to take a variety of energy-saving and pollution-reducing measures, including travel by mass transit or carpool, whenever possible; turning off unused appliances and lights in unoccupied areas of buildings; using air conditioning only when necessary, setting the thermostat to 78 degrees; use energy-efficient appliances and lighting; close blinds and shades during the day to help reduce indoor heat; and avoid outdoor burning.

Ozone is the main component in smog. Short-term ozone exposure has been linked to eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as decreases in lung function. Shortness of breath, coughing or chest pains can occur in adults and children alike. Long-term exposure can lead to permanent problems with the airway and reductions in lung function. In severe cases, prolonged exposure may result in death. In addition to cardiovascular diseases, exposure can result in damage to the central nervous system and may cause irreparable reproductive and developmental harm, according to the American Lung Association. Exposure has also been linked to lower birth weight in newborns.

Ozone has also been shown to damage such crops as white clover and spinach, according to plant pathologist Margaret McGrath, of Cornell University’s Long Island Horticultural Research Station in Riverhead.

For more information, call the N.Y. State Department of Heath (518) 402-7530 or 1-(800) 458-1158;opr the Department of Environmental Conservation ay 1-(800) 535-1345, or go online at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/outdoors/ozone.htm.