On Monday, Feb. 4, several locals noticed alerts on their phones for “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups.”
According to data from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection via the website AirNow, the area’s air quality veered from “Moderate” to “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” when it rose above 100 on the Air Quality Index (AQI) on Monday. The AQI for the Newark area is now back down to 80 — in the Moderate range of 51-100 AQI.
AirNow.gov explains the AQI, a scale created by the EPA, as follows: “Think of the AQI as 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. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.”
“EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health .Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in this country.”
That explains a lot, but why was the air quality less than good yesterday?
CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported that it had to do with the sudden, unseasonably warm conditions that followed a period of intense sub-zero temperatures.
“The chemicals become an issue, because they were put down when it was really cold. Now, we have all this warmth that’s been released by Mother Nature. What does warm air want to do? It wants to rise,” Quinn reported on CBS2 this afternoon. “So now, those chemicals – which were never able to be sucked into the ground because it almost developed like a permafrost, everything froze so quickly – now, they get suspended as the air is rising.”
While temperatures will continue to be warm throughout the week, more winter-like conditions will return this weekend, perhaps assuring South Orange, Maplewood and surrounding areas of better air quality to come.