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Update: Air Quality Alert Continues Through Friday

Health officials suggest limiting strenuous outdoor activities.

2:45 p.m., July 7, 2011: Thursday update—The National Weather Service reports an air quality alert continues today (beginning at approximately 9:30 a.m. and ending Friday night at 9:30 p.m.)

See below for more information.

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The New York State Department of Health has issued an air quality alert in Westchester County beginning at 11 a.m. today, according to the National Weather Service.

The air quality alert is in effect until 11 p.m. tonight.

NWS explains the alert is due to air quality levels outside being "greater" than 100 on the Air Quality Index (AQI), a system measuring pollutants.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation monitors ozone conditions every weekday morning in the summer.

A higher number on the AQI indicates higher levels of pollution, so the Department of Health is recommending limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity today to avoid potential health problems—especially young and elderly people, as well as anyone with asthma or heart disease.

"Breathing outdoor air with high ozone levels, even for a short period of time (hours or days), can affect health," according to an "Ozone Fact Sheet" from the Department of Health.

"Short-term ozone exposure has been linked with adverse effects. Eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory symptoms and decreases in lung function have occurred in healthy, exercising people breathing air containing elevated levels of ozone. Respiratory symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing, and may occur in both adults and children. In community studies, days with high outdoor ozone levels tend to have increased hospitalizations for respiratory conditions and increased daily mortality rates. More limited evidence suggests that short-term exposure to elevated ozone levels might also aggravate heart symptoms in people with pre-existing heart disease or high blood pressure."

Additionally, breathing air with high ozone levels over the course of years can permanently affect health, potentially increasing the likelihood of asthma developing in children.

If you experience any health-related complications today, consult your physican or call the air quality hotline at 1-800-535-1345.

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