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Parts of NH under air quality advisory

 A hazy scene over the river in Manchester on May 30, 2023
Casey McDermott
A hazy scene in Manchester last summer.

As the summer begins and temperatures rise, health and environmental experts are urging people to pay attention to air conditions.

“We check the weather reports to see how much rain is coming our way,” said Paul Friedrichs, a doctor and the board chair of New Hampshire Health Care Workers for Climate Action. “We should be aware of air quality as well.”

Twice this week, state officials issued air quality advisories, citing unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone, which constitutes the main component of smog. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services cautioned that children, older adults, pregnant people and anyone with a chronic respiratory disease should limit their time outdoors due to those conditions.

Ozone exposure can lead to respiratory issues like coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. Otherwise healthy people may also notice mild symptoms from prolonged exposure.

“Maybe hold off on going for your afternoon run or any outdoor exercise in general,” said Marcus Chase, an air quality analysis supervisor with the state.

Friedrichs said this week’s warm temperatures contributed to the poor air conditions — which, in turn, can irritate people’s lungs and lead to inflammation.

“The issue with this heat is that in areas where there's combustion, like anywhere near cars or power plants that use fossil fuels, that increases the ground level ozone, which compounds the usual issues with the small particles that get in the air from burning fossil fuels,” he said.

Ground-level ozone, he said, is different from the ozone in the stratosphere, which protects people from harmful ultraviolet rays.

Rain and cloud cover is forecast for Thursday, which should improve conditions.

People can track air quality advisories on the DES website or monitor conditions using the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow tool.

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