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Health, Science & Environment

Central Ohio's first air quality alert for first weekend of June may not be the last one for 2023

Franklin, Delaware, Licking and Fairfield counties are under a high air quality alert for Friday and face a moderate risk of unhealthy air quality levels for the weekend as temperatures hover in the 90s and high 80s.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission issued the alert for Thursday and Friday due to high levels of ground-level ozone pollution, or smog. High temperatures, light winds, sunny skies and a ridge of high pressure moving westward over the Great Lakes are the cause.

Thursday's Air Quality Index (AQI) scale was forecasted as 101, and Friday's as 108. When levels exceed 100, air quality is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, and MORPC issues an Air Quality Alert to the public.

This is the first alert as summer nears, and may not be the last as temperatures rise. Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission Sustainability Officer Brandi Whetstone said Ohio is seeing improvements in ozone pollution levels, but it varies greatly year to year and we could get more this year, due to the impact of wildfires. Last year the agency issued three alerts for high levels, but issued none in 2021.

"We tend to encourage people, if they're sensitive to pollution. Don't go out and spend a lot of time outdoors during the hottest part of the day," Whetstone said.

These conditions typically put active children, the elderly and people with asthma and COPD at risk to suffer from symptoms.

MORPC said in a press release that the weekend's conditions will improve, but there is still a moderate air quality level and ozone formation.

Whetstone said one thing MORPC watches are wildfires, whose smoke may drift into the region and impact air quality.

Whetstone said to decrease the potential for health issues, people at risk are urged to limit outdoor activity in the midday and afternoon and plan outdoor activities for the morning.

"If you can share a ride wherever you're going, take a bus, walk or bike, that's always a good option, and you get healthy exercise, as long as you're not overly sensitive to pollution levels," she said.

To reduce pollution and emission levels, MORPC also recommends:

  • Turning off your engine instead of idling your vehicle to cut down on vehicle emissions.
  • Avoiding refueling your vehicle or wait until dusk to refuel your vehicle. Filling up your tank when the daytime heat has diminished helps to reduce harmful ground-level ozone pollution.
  • Avoiding topping off your tank at the gas station. Spilled gasoline pollutes the air when it evaporates.
  • And avoiding mowing your lawn or using other gas-powered lawn equipment on an Air Quality Alert Day. Longer grass in your yard is good for the air and water quality.

Whetstone said people who do not receive air quality alerts should sign up on MORPC's website to receive notifications through email or text message if the region is seeing high air pollution.

Health, Science & Environment Air QualityWeathersmog
George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.