News Release

Metropolitan Washington air quality exceeds healthy levels for first time in 2018

May 3, 2018

Ozone levels exceeded EPA air quality standards Wednesday in metropolitan Washington, marking the first unhealthy air day—“Code Orange” day—for the region this year.

Thursday is also forecast to be a “Code Orange” day, according to data from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and Clean Air Partners.

This period of potential unhealthy air conditions coincides with Air Quality Awareness Week (April 30 - May 4), a time to learn about the effects of ozone on health and urge residents to take action to reduce air pollution.


EPA Air Quality Index

During times of unhealthy air, sensitive groups like children, older adults, and people with respiratory and heart ailments may experience adverse health effects and should limit time spent outside. Residents can check current air quality conditions at

“Although we’ve enjoyed many air quality improvements in the region over the last decade, it is important to remember that there is much more work to be done,” said Hans Riemer, Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee Chairman and Montgomery County Council President. “We need the support of federal, state, and local governments, businesses, and residents across our region to meet the federal health standards for ground-level ozone and protect public health.”

On unhealthy air days, COG advises area residents to take the following actions:

  • Download the free air quality app at for current air quality information.
  • Turn off lights and electronics when not in use and follow tips from your electric utility about how to use less electricity to cool your home.
  • Avoid lawn mowing or use an electric mower.
  • Fill your vehicles' gas tank after sunset.
  • Take transit, carpool, or work from home.

The region recorded just eight “Code Orange” days in 2017 when air quality exceeded levels for ground-level ozone that are unhealthy for sensitive groups. In 1998, there would have been 10 times as many unhealthy air days if using today’s 2015 Ozone Standard. None of the 2017 exceedance days reached more serious "Code Red" unhealthy levels.

COG provides air quality forecasts for metropolitan Washington. It also educates the public about voluntary actions people can take to reduce pollution and the health risks of bad air quality through its Clean Air Partners program, which is co-sponsored by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. 

Contact: Megan Goodman
Phone: (202) 962-3209
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