Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (July 7, 2010) – With hot summer weather increasing the potential for unhealthy air quality, the Maryland Department of the Environment reminds residents of the steps they should take to protect themselves and the air.

One monitoring station in Maryland (Davidsonville, in Anne Arundel County) reported Code Red levels yesterday, and 10 others reached Code Orange levels. A Code Orange air quality alert has been issued for today for all regions in Maryland.

A Code Orange forecast indicates that air quality is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, meaning that children, and adults with respiratory and heart ailments, should limit time outside.

To protect the air -- and, in turn, everyone’s health -- under Code Orange conditions people should:
avoid driving (use public transportation or telework); reduce car idling; refuel after dusk; use fuel-efficient vehicles; avoid using aerosol products; and conserve electricity.

Under Code Red conditions, everyone may experience health effects and should limit their outdoor activities and outdoor activities for children. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Under Code Red conditions people should, in addition to the steps for Code Orange conditions, avoid mowing the lawn, or use electric mowers, and delay painting. People can also help air quality by keeping their vehicles maintained and cutting back on energy use.

Air pollution levels typically peak during the summer, when air can stagnate and the sun reacts with chemical compounds to form ground-level ozone. Health effects associated with ozone include decreased lung function, asthma attacks, and eye irritation.

MDE collects air quality readings hourly at 23 sites across Maryland. The readings are for levels of such pollutants as ground-level ozone, fine particles, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide, along with oxides of nitrogen, compounds that when warmed by the sun can create ozone. The readings are given a numerical value, with ranges that indicate levels of health concern. MDE provides current readings for a map that is displayed online.

MDE meteorologists combine their knowledge of how pollutants react to weather with the predicted weather for upcoming days to develop air quality forecasts.

At certain times, as much as 70 percent of the pollution in our air comes from other states. Maryland is pushing for tougher regional standards for air quality. Closer to home, Maryland has implemented the Healthy Air Act, the most sweeping air pollution program ever in Maryland and the toughest power plant emission law on the East Coast, and the Maryland Clean Cars Program, which includes standards that will significantly reduce emissions of pollutants.

While so far in 2010 Maryland has had 20 bad air quality days, when the air was unhealthy for sensitive groups, air quality in Maryland has improved dramatically in recent years as a result of air pollution control programs.

Go to MDE’s website for air quality forecasts and information on air quality, sign up for email alerts at, or call the air quality hotline at 410-537-3247.