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Virginia ozone forecasting season begins Monday

Virginia DEQThe Virginia Department of Environmental Quality monitors air quality at 36 locations throughout the state and provides forecasts to ensure Virginians enjoy clean air.

Visit the DEQ website for real-time air quality information and forecasts. Both forecasts and alerts are customized to regions of the state. Residents may sign up to receive them by email from DEQ.

Northern Virginia air quality forecasts and alerts are sent by Clean Air Partners through EnviroFlash.

DEQ issues air quality forecasts and health alerts for particulate pollution year-round and for ozone April through September. Both pollutants can cause a variety of health problems and ozone can travel hundreds of miles from the original source.

Ozone, a colorless gas that forms when chemicals in the atmosphere react on hot, sunny days, is most often caused by motor vehicle exhaust, power plants, industrial emissions and solvents. Particulate pollution is a general term for solids or liquids that are suspended in the air, and can include dust, dirt, pollen, soot and chemicals.

“DEQ issues air quality health alerts so that people with respiratory or heart issues, the elderly and children, who may be at risk of health effects due to poor air quality, can reschedule strenuous outdoor activities until air quality improves,” DEQ Director David Paylor said.

Ozone levels have dropped markedly since air quality monitoring began in the 1970s. In 1993, Virginia experienced a high of 108 high ozone days in at least one locality. In 2020, there was only one such high ozone day in Northern Virginia, and none in the rest of the state.

“We had lower ozone pollution levels last year than we’ve seen in decades, due in large part to cleaner vehicles and stronger controls on industrial emissions,” Air and Renewable Energy Director Mike Dowd said. “The COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role in reducing some vehicle traffic, which resulted in lower emissions last year. With Virginia’s pending adoption of stricter vehicle emissions standards, we expect continued decreases.

“As we begin this year’s ozone monitoring season, it’s a great time to remind Virginians to consider cleaner modes of transportation. Walk, bike, or take the bus when you can to protect your health and the health of those around you,” Dowd said.

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