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This is an Ozone Action Day

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News
First declaration for the 2014 ozone season

For the first time since September, state officials have declared today an Ozone Action Day in the Austin-area. The declaration means weather conditions are expected to be conducive to lower-than-normal air quality.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to bad enough to affect sensitive groups, such as those with asthma or heart disease, elderly people and children. The general public should be okay. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets a minimum standard for ozone of 75 parts per billion. 

“Our standard last year, we ended the 2013 ozone season at 73 parts per billion, so we’re actually okay, for now, but EPA expects to announce a new ozone standard in December of this year,”  Clean Air Force of Central Texas director Sarah Holland says.

That new standard is expected to be lower, 60 to 70 parts per billion, a tougher air quality level to maintain. Going above the standard too many times can mean "non-attainment," and that carries consequences such as cuts to federal funding for highways and restrictions on businesses.

The Clean Air Force is asking people to help reduce pollution. 

“Even little things, like limit your driving, taking the bus, carpooling, avoiding peak traffic times if you can work from home," Holland says.  "Avoid idling, which can’t be helped in traffic, but if you can, instead of going through the drive-through, go inside,” she said.

Other ways to reduce strains on air quality include avoiding pumping gasoline or using gas-powered machinery, like lawn mowers, before 6 p.m. on an Ozone Action Day. 

Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.
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