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DHEC to start providing ozone forecasts

Starting April 1, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has started a service, providing ozone forecasts.

Ozone forecasts predict whether ozone levels in the area may reach or exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index (AQI) Level Orange category (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups).

EPA officers say the AQI is essentially a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.

The data will be updated on the DHEC ozone forecast page or the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) at AirNow and you can also sign up for ozone and other air quality e-mails using the free EnviorFlash service.

DHEC officials said the ozone forecasts will help residents plan outdoor activities safely. High ozone can be harmful to vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and those with respiratory issues.

“High ozone concentrations generally occur on hot, sunny days in the spring and summer when the air is stagnant and the sun’s rays shine more directly on the earth’s surface,” said Rhonda Thompson, chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality. “We issue our daily ozone forecasts to help South Carolinians make healthy decisions about outdoor activities during the summer when we feel the most impacts from ozone.”

When the ozone forecasts are high, administrators recommend residents modify plans for outdoor activities such as lunch, recess, and physical education classes and only plan outdoor activities when the ozone levels are lower and usually in the morning or evening.

“During our ozone forecasting season, we also like to remind South Carolinians of the ways they can help reduce ozone pollution,” said Greg Quina, Air Quality Modeling Section Manager with DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality. 

According to DHEC scientists, South Carolinians can do their part in reducing ozone pollution:

  • Drive less (alternative work schedules, telecommuting, Shopping by phone, mail, or the Internet, and have a healthier commute by walking or biking to your destination)
  • Drive smart (Do not idle your vehicle, Slowly increase your car's speed and use cruise control on the highway, Trip-Chaining, which combines several errands into a single trip, Obey the speed limit. It saves gas and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, Keep your vehicle tuned up and your tires properly inflated. Both help save gasoline and improve air quality, as well as make your car safer, do not top off gas tank.)
  • Use air-friendly products ( Select water-based solvents, use water based paints, paint with brush instead of sprayer, store solvents like paint thinners in airtight containers, use reel or electric lawn mower and other non-gas-powered equipment such as edgers)
Marcus Flowers is an award-winning content producer who specializes in various topics.