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State declares "Air Quality Action Day" in Monadnock region

December 20. 2013 3:37PM

CONCORD – The state Department of Environmental Services (DES) is expecting air pollution concentrations to reach unhealthy levels for sensitive individuals in populated valley areas in southwestern New Hampshire, including Keene, Friday into Saturday.

DES officials are calling for an Air Quality Action Day and advise sensitive individuals in these areas to take precautions to protect their health by limiting prolonged exertion. Sensitive individuals include children, older adults, and anyone with heart or lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. Even healthy individuals may experience mild health effects and should consider limiting strenuous or prolonged activities.

DES forecasts concentrations of fine particle pollution to be unhealthy for sensitive individuals. The expected unhealthy particle pollution levels are the result of local pollution, mainly from heating devices such as wood-burning fireplaces, stoves and boilers, stagnating under temperature inversion conditions.

Temperature inversions occur during calm, cold nights when warm air above traps cold air below. Such events prevent pollution near the ground from mixing with cleaner air aloft. As a result, ground level pollution concentrations can increase.

Conditions are expected to improve by Sunday morning as wind speeds increase, resulting in better mixing and cleaner air.

Communities located in valleys or other low-lying areas where temperature inversions are common are more strongly affected. On days when fine particle levels are forecasted to be high and winds are calm, if an alternative heating source is available, DES advises that residents may want to avoid burning wood until the winds increase.

People with asthma and other existing lung diseases may not be able to breathe as deeply or vigorously as normal and may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Symptoms of particle pollution exposure for people with heart disease may include chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue. In addition to harmful health effects, fine particle pollution may create hazy conditions that reduce visibility.

For further information, contact DES at (603) 271-1370. For air quality forecasts and current air pollution levels in New Hampshire, call 1-800-935-SMOG or visit the DES website at

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