When the prevailing summer breezes blow in balmy from the southwest, Maine heats up, and there are times that the Midcoast is just as hot as New York City. When those conditions settle in, it is likely they are accompanied by unhealthy air quality warnings, issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

This is when Maine is known less as “the way life should be” and more as the “country’s tailpipe.”

Gov. Paul LePage, in his town hall meeting June 17 in Rockport, noted that air quality was a major factor in the state’s quality of life.

Elevated ozone concentrations — smog — get predicted, as wafting patches of bad air spread Down East, through Penobscot Bay, over to Mount Desert Island and then down toward Nova Scotia. That ozone is a chemical reaction created by volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and sunshine. Sources of those compounds and nitrogen oxides include the combustion engine, utility plants, solvents and degreasing agents, paints and cleaners, boats, construction equipment, airplanes, lawnmowers — all those devices and materials so prevalent in our times.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, and then the Maine DEP, circulate alerts, especially for those who suffer from asthma, congestive heart failure, and other conditions that reduce lung function. The unhealthy air alerts then get posted on the Internet in news outlets and government websites, warning the public to avoid strenuous exercise, or stay inside and close the windows.

That’s not a summer existence any of us want to experience. Nor should it be something we continue to accept as a symptom of 21st century life. And we applaud a new campaign of Maine health organizations to lobby against toxic pollution. The Maine Lung Association, along with American Cancer Society, Maine Hospital Association, Maine Medical Association, Maine Osteopathic Association, Maine Physicians for Social Responsibility, and a host of others — 24 of them altogether — throughout the state, are making a stand to advocate more strongly in Washington, D.C., for cleaner air.

Watch out EPA: Unhealthy air is an environmental travesty, but it is also a health care nightmare, and it costs money. Listen to the doctors, administrators and parents who are about to embark on a renewed battle to strengthen the Clean Air Act. Mainers do not like sitting in the tailpipe.