Two people and a doggie in a canoe

Summer is a glorious, too-short experience here in Maine. One of the best places to take advantage of beautiful weather is on one of our many beautiful lakes. Which is what Adam Lewis, Kepler (in the red life jacket), and Christy Catsos are doing.

The temperature is soaring on this third of July 2018 and it’s pretty hot and sticky outside. On days like this, a leisurely paddle may be a good thing to do, but you probably don’t want to exert yourself. That’s because with the heat and humidity comes increased ozone. When you live in a part of the world that doesn’t get a lot of heat and humidity — like Maine — it may not take much to feel the effects.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) says “A significant heat event has been impacting the northeast and will continue for the next several days.” You can have high heat without high ozone levels, but unfortunately, conditions are right for ozone to form “very efficiently in the region.”

What exactly is ozone and why does it matter?

Simply put, ozone is a gas that is found in the upper atmosphere and on the ground. Ozone in the upper atmosphere helps shield us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which is a good thing.

Ground level ozone is a bad thing. It’s produced when the pollutants nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in sunlight and stagnant air — conditions we are now experiencing. Nox and VOCs come from natural (coniferous forests) and man-made sources, including emissions from factory smokestacks and the tailpipes of our cars.

If you are someone who is sensitive to air quality, you want to pay special attention to ozone levels. If you have a lung condition, such as asthma, COPD, emphysema, or bronchitis, your symptoms can get worse with increasing ozone levels. Even if you don’t have a preexisting condition, it can make it harder for you to breathe, especially if you’re exerting yourself.

People at highest risk:

  • Someone with asthma or another lung (or heart) condition
  • Someone with a weakened immune system
  • Older people
  • Babies and young children
  • Anyone who is outside doing something that requires a lot of exertion

If you’d like to keep track of the air quality on a regular basis, you might want to sign up for EnviroFlash. I heard about it from Rebecca Boulos, the Executive Director of  Maine’s Public Health Association.  When you sign up, you get an email alert from the EPA when the air quality is expected to be low in your area. For example, here’s the notification I received yesterday afternoon.

EnviroFlash alert

You can get more information and subscribe to EnviroFlash notifications on the EPA website. I’m keeping this blog post short and to the point because frankly, it’s too darn hot to do any more! I’m sure you understand.

Stay cool and I hope you have a wonderful fourth of July. Here’s one last piece of advice from Kepler: Relax and do nothing!

Kepler the dog taking it easy