Air quality alerts in the state far below normal this year

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Aug 8, 2014 4:26 AM

Photo by AP Photo/Rick Smith

FILE PHOTO: A group of kayakers makes its way down the Susquehanna River.

(Harrisburg) -- Air quality in Pennsylvania has been better than average this year, but not because of less pollution.

Cloudy and rainy days have helped.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has labeled just four days so far this year as air quality alert days -- compared to 28 last year and 75 the year before.

Lisa Kasianowitz with the DEP says ozone is primarily the cause for air quality action days, and with fewer sunny days this year, ozone conditions have largely remained under control.

"Typically we see yellow, orange levels whenever we do issue air quality action days," she says. "That basically is just letting people know to be cognizant if they have respiratory illnesses or any type of breathing problems that they should perhaps stay inside on the hotter parts of the day."

She says although about half of the summer has passed, air quality alerts can still pop up.

"People generally think that air quality days only occur during the summer. And this is actually a falsehood," she says. "Air quality action days can occur throughout the year. It's all dependent upon the weather and pollution rates, what's in the air at that time."

She says the agency relies on federal Environmental Protection standards in determining whether it should issue an air quality alert.

If one is put out, Kasianowitz says those with respiratory illnesses or asthma should try to stay inside during the hottest part of the day.

For much of the summer, central Pennsylvania has fallen in the green category, also known as good.

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