'Unhealthy' Air Quality Alerts Issued for Cleveland as Heat Wave Arrives

We'll have "moderate" levels of air pollutants all this week

A radar report of the region's air quality rating Monday morning, showing moderate levels of ozone pollution in yellow. - AirNow
A radar report of the region's air quality rating Monday morning, showing moderate levels of ozone pollution in yellow.
The Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency issued an "Unhealthy" air quality warning for the five-county region on Monday morning.

Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties will all see noticeable shifts in potentially harmful ozone content, NOACA said, which could cause coughing, sore throats and congestion for children, the elderly and people with lung disease.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, Cleveland had a 69 air quality index rating, a composite score of polluting particles that reach ground-level. Sandusky's was 70. Wooster, 65. Mentor, 69. And Youngstown, 63.

A gas that could be toxic in extreme levels, ozone—bad ozone, not the naturally occurring gas that protects us from harsh sun rays—is caused primarily by emissions from cars, solvents, paints, industry and fossil fuels in general. Higher heat levels, like those slated to rise this week to near 100-degree levels, exacerbate ozone gas's deleterious effects.

NOACA's late June warning brings to mind the Canadian wildfires one year ago, when harmful smoke made its way southward, covering Cleveland in a thick cloud of gray and brown. On June 27, 2023, Cleveland reported an AQI rating of 291, just 10 points away from a "Hazardous" alarm from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The good news, NOACA announced in April, is that air pollution levels across Northeast Ohio aren't slipping into the unmanageable.

In the agency's latest Air Quality Trends Report, NOACA listed pollution from ozone as "stable," while listing pollutants from fine particle matter, like PM2.5, as "decreasing." A trend, the agency says, that can be extended by cleaner energy production and an overall shift away from vehicles that run on fossil fuels.

Regardless, Cleveland was ranked 4th worst U.S. city for asthma patients, according to a report published last September by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

And human-driven climate change continues to make sustained periods of extreme heat more frequent, with heat being the number one-related weather killer.

The city of Cleveland is operating six cooling centers this week. Details below.

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Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a staff writer at Scene. For the past seven years, he's covered Cleveland as a freelance journalist, and has contributed to TIME, NPR, the Pacific Standard and the Cleveland Magazine. He's the winner of two Press Club awards.
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