State environmental regulators issued an air quality health advisory Friday for Muskogee County after a monitoring stations at Fort Gibson recorded sulfur dioxide levels that exceed national standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's national ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide were established to protect human health and the environment. Short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide, according to EPA fact sheets, can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality issued the advisory after sulfur dioxide levels reached 79 ppb at 10 a.m. Friday. That exceeds the national standard of 75 ppb set for sulfur dioxide.

The air quality health advisory for Muskogee notes that active children and adults, and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma should limit prolonged exertion. The advisory notes that residents in Cherokee County are at a moderate risk due to the elevated levels of sulfur dioxide.

An EPA fact sheet notes the largest source of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the burning of fossil fuels used by power plants and other industrial facilities. Smaller sources of such emissions include some industrial processes such as extracting metal from ore and heavy equipment that burns fuel with a high sulfur content.

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