FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bob Hopkins
News Releases 2003
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs
The Environmental protection Agency (EPA) and the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) marked World Asthma Day today by announcing a partnership to jointly develop a forecasting tool which will enhance the ability to predict air quality in our communities. The new model will create a consistent national, numerical system of forecasting ozone and particular matter. This tool will provide the Air Quality Index in daily weather forecasts, and will report a more accurate warning of the days in which outdoor activities could prove to be a health risk. In a ceremony that took place today in Washington, D.C., EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and Commerce Department Deputy Secretary Sam Bodman signed an agreement between the two agencies on this effort.
“The 31 million Americans with asthma, including 9 million children, will breathe easier with more accurate forecasts of high ozone days,” said Whitman. “As ozone season begins this month, the Air Quality Index will be an important resource for people who are concerned about their air, and this new national model will be an important addition to the tools state and local agencies use to make those forecasts. During the warm summer months when ground level ozone can occur, this tool will help citizens and businesses make important everyday decisions that directly affect air quality, such as deciding to take mass transit instead of driving.”
“This is an excellent example of how partnerships between government agencies, states and local communities can provide a valuable public service,” said Bodman. “The new air quality forecast tool will help people make better decisions to protect their health on daily activities such as working or playing outdoors, driving their cars or choosing other means of transportation. For people affected by poor air quality, an improved forecast can mean a higher quality of life.”
Ozone is a clear gas that is formed when pollutants emitted from cars, power plants and other industrial sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight. At ground level, high concentrations of ozone can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung function and aggravate asthma. Particulate matter is also associated with aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis and increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits for people with heart and lung disease.
May 6 is World Asthma Day, and it coincides with the beginning of weather reports that will issue “ozone alerts” when the ground-level ozone (or smog) can exceed EPA standards because of a combination of hot, hazy weather and pollutants from vehicles and industrial activity. On days when ozone is predicted to be high, many communities take steps to reduce pollution.
In the first phase of the collaboration announced today, EPA and NOAA will produce a model that provides daily forecasts for ozone in the northeastern U.S. by Sept. 2004. Within five years, following initial deployment and evaluation, the enhanced forecasting system will be used nationwide. The air quality forecasting model is projected to be able to forecast particulate matter and provide a four day forecast within 10 years.
The two agencies secured the arrangement announced today by signing two documents which identify research objectives and codify their long-standing relationship in the area of air quality and related health effects.
On the web:
Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/
Daily ozone forecasts and information about the Air Quality Index: http://www.epa.gov/airnow