Air quality alert in effect for McHenry County through Tuesday

Alert was issued for ground level pollutants, not wildfire smoke

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued an air quality alert for McHenry County and much of the Chicago area through Tuesday due to higher levels of pollution.

This week’s hot temperatures coupled with low wind speeds and forecasted dry weather has helped ground level pollution levels rise, Illinois EPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs said.

“Last week we didn’t see multiple days in the orange category, but this week’s alert is for ground level pollution,” Biggs said.

While a lot of attention has been focused in recent weeks on the hazy, smoke-filled skies that have seemed to turn the skies orange at certain times, Biggs said this alert is for the typical summer smog and other pollution that often occurs in urban areas during the summer.

“This is actually more for ground level ozone and while we are still seeing some effects, not so much from the western wildfires,” Biggs said. “Those particle levels are in the lower, yellow category.”

The wildfire smoke has mostly remained aloft above heights measured by the EPA, but there has been some light smoke and wildfire particles at the ground level, Biggs said.

The IEPA will continue to monitor the air quality each day as well as the weather forecast, Biggs said, adding, “higher wind speeds and decreased temperates and especially rain” would help keep levels down.

According to the National Weather Service in Romeoville, temperatures across the Chicago area are expected to top 90 degrees again on Tuesday with light winds. Wednesday is forecasted to be the same with higher humidity levels. The next chance for rain that could help wash pollutants out of the air could come Wednesday night.

On days with air quality alerts, those with respiratory issues such as asthma are asked to limit outdoor activities.

“We want people to take precautions to protect their health,” Biggs said.

Those taking prescriptions for respiratory issues should continue to take them this week, she said. Those looking for more information and a forecast on the pollution can visit airnow.gov for a local forecast.