EPA encourages limited outdoor activity due to reduced air quality

An air quality alert from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will remain in effect through Tuesday, brought on by the extended period of hot and dry weather in the Chicago area, meteorologists said.

Tuesday will mark the sixth consecutive Air Pollution Action day, caused by a buildup of Ozone gas, National Weather Service Meteorologist Rafal Ogorek said. The conditions could exasperate breathing problems in certain people, including the elderly and those with respiratory, pulmonary and cardiovascular issues. Residents are encouraged to limit their outdoor activity and find ways to keep cool.

"The [EPA] issues the air quality action days whenever there’s a high concentration of ozone down near the surface, where it can potentially hinder people’s ability to breathe and cause coughing," Ogorek said.

Pollutants such as gasoline, car exhaust and factory emissions combine with sunlight and hot weather to form the potentially harmful Ozone gas, Illinois EPA spokesperson Kim Biggs said.

"We really saw the levels building on [Thursday], so we did anticipate we would be issuing multiple alerts to keep the public informed and hope that people would take precautions to protect themselves and reduce the impact of the pollution being produced in the region," Biggs said.

It's not common for the EPA to issue so many consecutive air quality alerts. The agency issued a three-day series in June, but none in 2019, Biggs said. The last time the EPA issued five action days in a row was in 2007, she said.

Poor air quality can present a risk even to those who are active, young and otherwise healthy, so people are encouraged to limit outdoor activity, keep cool and follow their doctor's recommendations, Biggs said.

"We do a daily forecast and we are hoping there’s a chance it could improve by Wednesday," Biggs said.

A National Weather Service hazardous weather outlook for isolated thunderstorms throughout the remainder of the week could help improve air quality.

Continued heat is expected to be met with "uncomfortable humidity" through Friday, with widely scattered thunderstorms possible Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, according to the NWS outlook. Meteorologists predict the best chance for rain on Thursday.

In an effort to provide relief from the hot weather, the Lake in the Hills Police Department's cooling center, 1115 Crystal Lake Road, is available to residents, according to a Nixle alert issued Monday.

Temperature highs in McHenry County are expected to remain in the low 90s through Thursday, with a high of 88 degrees forecasted for Friday, according to the NWS.

Air quality forecasts and information about how to reduce emissions can be found at www.airnow.gov.

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