The New York state environmental department issued an air quality warning to New York and the surrounding suburbs on Monday.
The warning was in place until 10 p.m. Individuals were advised to avoid extended periods of time outside if they are sensitive to air conditions, such as those who have asthma.
“Since it’s really hot, that sun is blazing,” said Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist and environmental expert with the National Resource Defense Council. “That sun can accelerate the march to rather high ozone concentrations.”
As temperatures increase in the atmosphere, the concentration of ground ozone -- the biggest component of smog -- increases, Knowlton said. This, combined with sun dependent chemical reactions, increases the particles and ozone in the atmosphere making it difficult to breathe.
“[Ozone] is a lung irritant. It acts like you’re getting a sunburn on your lungs,” said Knowlton. “Even healthy people on a high ozone day can get a sense of not being able to get a big lungful of air.”
This makes individuals with chronic lung conditions such as asthma especially susceptible. Over time, high exposure to ozone and atmospheric particles can lead to permanent lung damage and for those with asthma, deadly precipitated attacks.
The state environmental department’s air quality warning also pertained to higher particles in the atmosphere. Particles were declared carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2013.