By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Summer has started and in Baltimore, that means hazy, hot and humid conditions will soon return.

Thursday morning, Clean Air Partners kicked off its “Breathe Easy” campaign on Federal Hill.

“The good news story is that Baltimore City, in fact, exactly where we’re standing, the air is getting dramatically cleaner. It’s improving just over the last several years,” said Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Rumbles. “The steps that have led to that are important regulations that reduce pollution from power plants, smokestacks, and tailpipes.”

Clean Air Partners launched the Breathe East campaign by recommending simple steps residents can take to improve air quality. They include using public transit, filling your gas tank after dusk during the summer and turning off lights and electronics when not in use.

Doctors say breathing in ground-level ozone can reduce lung function by 20 percent.

“For healthy people like me it may just mean a little bit more shortness of breath and maybe irritated eyes but for people who have a pre-existing health condition, asthma for example, it could be life-threatening,” said Dr. Janet Phoenix of George Washington University.

The state says real progress is being made in reducing ozone pollution in Baltimore City and across Maryland, but it’s pushing the EPA to do more.

“I’ll be testifying in Washington, D.C. tomorrow to push the EPA to do more with those power plants in five states upwind of us to run their controls just like we do — to scrub that pollution from the power plants,” said Ben Grumbles, Maryland Department of Environment secretary.

Clean Air Partners says poor air quality could affect 7.5 million people in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia region this summer.

In addition, two students from John Poole Middle School in Montgomery County, Weronika Kitlinska and Claudia Colon, won awards for creating artwork about the importance of air quality and the environment.

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