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The Brunner Island power plant in York County is the single greatest source of bad air in Lancaster County, but levels are dropping dramatically with new air pollution equipment and a conversion to natural gas. (File photo: June 20, 2018)

Air pollution levels could be high Thursday in Lancaster County, posing a risk to sensitive groups and those with pre-existing respiratory illnesses.

That’s according to officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection, who have issued a “code orange” warning about air quality Thursday in Lancaster County, as well nine other counties in southeast and southcentral Pennsylvania.

An orange-coded warning “represents unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive groups of people,” according to the department. Those groups include young children, elderly people and those already suffering with illnesses like asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.

People who belong to those groups “should limit outdoor activities,” officials said in an announcement.

According to the announcement, Thursday’s weather — a temperature inversion coupled with low wind — could provide ideal conditions for high levels of particulate pollution, microscopic liquids and solids suspended in air.

Like other forms of air pollution, particulates are a product of vehicle exhaust, power plant emissions and agriculture, as well as the domestic burning of trash, wood or coal, experts explained during a similar period of bad air quality earlier this winter.

The suspended particles are so small that they can easily be inhaled and possibly lead to health problems, the experts said.

On Thursday, the highest concentrations of particulate pollution are expected between 3 a.m. and 10 a.m., Department of Environmental Protection officials said.

The air quality warning also is in effect for Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Lebanon, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties.

People living in those areas are asked to avoid activities that contribute to air pollution — burning wood in fireplaces; using wood-burning stoves; burning leaves and trash; and using gas-powered lawn equipment.

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