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The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has issued an air quality alert for the Chicago area.

An Air Pollution Action Day was declared at 4 a.m. Tuesday and it has been extended through midnight Wednesday, affecting McHenry, Lake, Kane, DuPage, Cook, Kendall, Grundy and Will counties, according to the National Weather Service. People with asthma and other breathing problems should limit their outdoor activity, the National Weather Service said.

This is the first Air Pollution Action Day declared for the Chicago area this year. In 2012, the area had 12 Air Pollution Action Days, said Kim Biggs, special programs coordinator at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “This year has been very good thanks to mild temperatures," Biggs said.

An Air Pollution Action Day is declared when ozone levels are expected to be at or above an unhealthy level for sensitive groups.

Residents are encouraged to reduce their driving and take public transportation, walk or bike whenever possible.

Turning down the thermostat in one's home and unplugging unused electronics also contributes to improved air quality, Biggs said. She added that errands are best done at night when the ozone levels are down.

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