The summer smog season has begun, and Marylanders sensitive to common air pollutants can anticipate plenty of uncomfortable, unhealthy "bad air days." But this year the Maryland Department of the Environment's "AirWatch" program is making air quality forecasts and warnings easily available to anyone with access to a telephone or an online computer.
MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick, said, "Summertime ground level ozone can be harmful to all of us, especially children, people with respiratory disease such as asthma, and those who work or exercise outdoors. Even at moderate levels, ozone may cause coughing, nose and throat irritation and chest pains. It can make lungs function less efficiently and it can make people more susceptible to respiratory illnesses."
Just call AirWatch at 410 537-3247, or go online to www.air-watch.net/ There you can find a graphical display of current air quality readings across the region. You can also sign up to receive faxed or emailed alerts when air quality is deteriorating to unhealthy levels across the region.
"We consider it an early warning system for your lungs," said Thomas C. Snyder, director of MDE's Air & Radiation Management Administration, in a prepared release.
A quick exploration of the state's Website finds that not all its features are up and running yet. But there is plenty of information, and many links to related sites and "hazecams" across the Northeast. Try it. And breathe easier.