Persons with heart and respiratory ailments were advised to reduce their physical activity and remain indoors yesterday and today as the Washington area suffered one of its worst bouts of air pollution in two years.
Until the rain falls and the winds increase, the health advisory will continue, officials said. Yet, people who are not elderly and who do not suffer from heart or respiratory ailments "can go ahead with their normal schedule," said Robert Kaufmann, an environmental planner for the Washington Council of Governments. "They might notice burning and itching eyes and maybe a raspy throat, but that's the worst that could happen to the general public, I would think."
The Council of Governments issued the advisory shortly after 3 p.m. when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality index indicated that the ozone level had reached 130 in Greenbelt.
The agency recorded the index at 125 in Mount Vernon, 120 in Suitland, Seven Corners and Alexandria, and 100 in the District. Any reading higher than 100 is considered unhealthful.
The last health advisory was issued in July 1981, when the level hit 125.
Officials blamed the air pollution on a several factors, including high temperatures, a steady buildup of pollutants and winds too weak to disperse them.
"Ozones are formed when pollution in the air--particularly hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides--cook in the sunlight," said Kaufmann.
Monday, the air quality index indicated that the ozone level had hit 165, Kaufmann said, but no advisory was issued because showers moved through and cleansed the air.
A weather service spokesman said that the air quality would be improved today only by a cold front or shower activity, which may arrive between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. There is a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms, the forecaster said.
At 3 p.m. yesterday, the National Weather Service reported that the temperature was 91 degrees, just three degrees short of the record of 94 set in 1885.