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April 27, 2009

Illinois EPA Promotes Air Quality Awareness Week with new air quality alert system for the public
EnviroFlash Program to Deliver Air Quality Information to Users’ Inboxes

Springfield -With the start of Air Quality Awareness Week, which runs from April 27 through May 1, 2009, and the approaching hot, dry weather of summer, the Illinois EPA wants to let residents know that air pollution levels often increase between early May and late September.  Air pollutants, specifically ozone and particulate matter, can affect a person’s respiratory and pulmonary system.  To better inform the public about ozone, particulate matter and other air quality matters, the Illinois EPA and the Partners for Clean Air Coalition are announcing the Illinois EnviroFlash system.

EnviroFlash (www.illinois.enviroflash.info) is an e-mail alert system that delivers air quality information straight to an individual’s inbox.  Once subscribers sign up by filling-in their basic information like e-mail address and ZIP code, they will receive alerts with the Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasts for the closest forecasting city.  They can also receive alerts when ozone or particulate matter pollution is expected to be unhealthy.  The Enviroflash system is replacing the Agency’s Air Pollution Action Day Notification System and will be for areas throughout the state.

“Because air pollution can have such a serious impact on the public, we urge everyone to take advantage of the free EnviroFlash system,” said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott.  “It’s a simple way to stay informed and take appropriate steps to protect your health.”

By registering on the EnviroFlash system, individuals can select the level of information they receive.  Notices can be sent daily, on days when air quality reached moderate (yellow) or any higher level.  In addition, there are three format types individuals can choose from, HTML, text only, or short messages for hand held devices.  Each day, the Illinois EPA submits air quality forecasted for five regions of the state, Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, Springfield and Metro-East.  Subscribers will be matched to the closest city with an air quality forecast.   Those forecasts will identify the pollutant of greatest concern by region for the following day.

EnviroFlash alerts can help people stay better informed of the risks associated with unhealthy air pollution levels.  Groups most susceptible to the risks include children, older adults, people with respiratory or heart diseases and people who are active outdoors.  However, when air pollution levels are very high, it is a concern for everyone.

Some ways to modify activities include planning activities with higher exertion during cooler times of the day, moderating exertion or reducing the time of exposure.  In addition, individuals are encouraged to follow the following time to reduce their contribution to air pollution.  Those include:

* Limit Driving.  Rideshare (www.sharethedrive.org), walk or bike.
* Take public transportation.
* Avoid excessive idling and abrupt starts.
* If you must drive, use your most fuel efficient vehicle.
* Use a charcoal chimney or electric starter instead of lighter fluid when grilling.
* Limit use of household products that cause fumes.
* Conserve energy at home to reduce energy demands on power plants.
* Do not burn leaves and other yard waste.
* Avoid using fire pits/fireplaces on Air Pollution Action Days.
* Avoid using lawnmowers and other gasoline-powered equipment on Action Days.
“The key is to be smart, flexible and informed,” said Director Scott. “Sign up for EnviroFlash at www.illinois.enviroflash.info to get air quality alerts, take any necessary precautions and modify your activity.”

Ground level ozone forms when pollutants from vehicles and industrial sources react in the presence of sunlight and warm temperatures.  High concentrations of ozone can cause health problems for individuals, especially those with heart or respiratory ailments.  Residents should keep cool and limit physical activity when air pollution levels are high.

Particulate matter consists of tiny airborne particles that are often less than one-hundredth the width of a human hair.  Like ground-level ozone (smog), particle pollution can aggravate respiratory and heart conditions.  Exposure to particle pollution has also been linked to premature deaths.  Unlike summertime ozone smog, unhealthful levels of particle pollution can occur in cooler months of the year.


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