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      Air quality issues heat up

      South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control publishes air quality forecasts every day.

      Monitoring the air she breathes has become as much of a routine as checking the daily weather report for Synithia Williams.

      Tuesday is a moderate air quality day. I just received my forecast at 4:30 p.m., said Williams.

      Williams is the environmental coordinator for Lexington County, but it wasn't her job that got her interested in local air quality forecasts.

      When I had my son three years ago and he suffered from breathing problems, says Williams, air quality became very important to me.

      Now she is trying to make air quality important to all Lexington County residents. Williams is encouraging them to sign-up for free email alerts when the ground-level ozone pollution is expected to be at unhealthy levels.

      They know it's hot, but they don't realize that the air they are breathing could also be affecting them as well, said Williams.

      According to Jack Porter from the Department of Health and Environmental Control, between April and October is when ground-level ozone is at its highest.

      The forecast is color-coated: green, yellow, orange and red, says Porter. Green is good, yellow is moderate, orange is unhealthy for sensitive groups, and red is unhealthy for everyone.

      Porter points out that ground-level ozone is formed during hot, dry stagnant weather conditions. When that happens, emissions from vehicles can add to the problem.

      There are ways to help reduce the formation of ground-level ozone, such as: combining trips and limit unnecessary ones, keep your vehicle properly maintained and avoid driving during peak hours.

      Both Porter and Williams hope that more people will become aware of the air quality, and in turn, it will help improve quality of life for everyone.