Monitoring ozone levels and associated health risks for this weekend

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The hot weather isn’t the only concern for the upcoming weekend—so is our air quality.

Specifically, we are talking about elevated levels of ozone. With unhealthy concentrations expected on Saturday, the R.I. Department of Environmental Management issued an Air Quality Alert.

Explore your Southern New England’s air quality forecast for Rhode Island & Massachusetts.

Senior Air Quality Specialist Darren Austin says all the ingratiation are coming together to create an unhealthy air quality weekend.

“The most critical elements are the directions of the wind,” Austin explained.

Austin said an Air Quality Alert is issued when ozone levels reach 70ppb (parts per billion).

Rhode Island’s air is rather clean, according to Austin, and most of the pollutants typically come from other states.

The critical wind direction needed is southwest to northeast.

“Upwind of us, we have New York City, and some very congested metropolitan areas,” he said. These locations, along with power plants and the I-95 corridor, are the main contributors to fossil fuel pollutants in the Ocean State.

Unhealthy ozone occurs when pollution fossil fuels combine with sunlight and heat.

WPRI’s Pinpoint Doppler 12 Weather Team is forecasting just that for this weekend.

Eyewitness News spoke with the R.I. Department of Health to find out what risks Southern New Englanders could face.

“If you have respiratory issues or underlying conditions, then ozone can aggravate your lungs,” said Rachel Calabro, the health department’s climate change program manager.

Calabro says those with underlying conditions such as asthma could see them exacerbated this weekend.

“If you are out during an Air Quality Alert day, you might notice some lung irritation,” she said.

Calabro says you can expect minor difficulty breathing as well, “because it is also related to heat and humidity. You’re going to feel the effects from that, so they kind of compound.”

According to health officials, the best times to be outside working or exercising is early in the morning or during the evening, outside the peak heating of the day.

WEB EXTRA: Darren Austin gave Eyewitness News reporter Torry Gaucher an exclusive behind the scenes look at the monitoring station in East Providence.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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