Air quality is not a major concern in the oil spill clean up area at this time.
According to Michael Vince, the administrator for the air quality assessment division of the Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality, statistics for the month of June have not documented any levels of pollutants in the air that would cause concern.
Ozone levels are measured in parts per billion and the Environmental Protection Agency's current standard allows for levels no higher than 75 ppb.
Vince said that while levels are expected to be high in June, so far his organization has only documented one day with ozone levels higher than 70 ppb.
A helicopter drops bags of sand onto a barrier during efforts to contain oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Barataria Bay near Port Sulphur, La., Friday, June 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
This good air quality has been recorded in spite of high temperatures in the region. Baton Rouge is seeing temperatures in the mid-90s this week with RealFeel temperatures reaching 117 degrees. New Orleans, which is more coastal, has seen temperatures in the low to mid-90s and has seen a RealFeel temperature as high as 112 degrees in recent days.
Vince said, "The maximum ozone readings seen in Baton Rouge are well below what we expect to see, in spite of the heat."
Vince indicated that statewide, all of the levels have been average or below average.
Regarding the coastal region, which has been affected by the oil spill in the Gulf, Vince said that they have not seen high air quality readings for any pollutants that would have been a result of the spill.
Vince said that both the DEQ and EPA "haven't seen anything for human health concern," in regards to air quality.
However, while air quality is reporting good levels, the EPA has documented low levels of odor-causing pollutants that may cause short-term health problems, such as headaches, nausea and eye, nose and throat irritation.
The EPA's observations for ozone and airborne particulate matter concur with those by the DEQ. As of June 21, the EPA was reporting air quality that ranged from "good" to "unhealthy for sensitive groups," in Louisiana.
The EPA was also reporting good air quality for most regions of Florida including Pensacola, though the very edge of the Florida panhandle was labeled as having "moderate" air quality. Moderate air quality means, "There may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution."
Pensacola is also experiencing temperatures in the mid-90s, which will continue through the weekend.
The Mississippi Gulf coast was also listed as having "good" air quality.
The DEQ is expected to release Louisiana's air quality summary for June at the end of the month.
While threat for a tropical storm in the Gulf remains a possibility late this weekend or early next week, excessive heat and thunderstorms able to spark dangerous lightning also remains a concern.
Steamy air pouring across the Gulf Coast will continue to set the stage for scattered thunderstorms over the oil spill area this week.
Since lightning started a fire onboard a BP drill ship last Tuesday, there is concern that other thunderstorms could lead to similar incidents this week.
As is the case with any thunderstorm, there is also worry of lightning striking anyone helping with the oil spill cleanup efforts.
A bolt of lightning can strike buildings, drill ships or workers performing cleanup operations 10 miles away from where it is raining. In extremely rare cases, lightning has been detected almost 50 miles away from the parent thunderstorm.
The one benefit of the thunderstorms will be to provide some relief from the warmth baking the region. Brief cooling typically takes place with the passage of a thunderstorm.
On Friday and Saturday, waves heights will be less than 2 ft., gusting to the southeast at 7-14 mph.
Story by Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist and Carly Porter and Kirstie Hettinga, AccuWeather.com Staff Writers.
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