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  • Ozone Pollution Season Is Coming

    Jun 20, 2014 | Read More News
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    Tired of the winds kicking up dust pollution? Unfortunately, when the winds take a rest, our levels of another harmful air pollutant will be on the rise.

    The intense solar radiation and stagnant air in June provides the perfect conditions for the creation of a dangerous air pollutant called ozone. Miles above us, in the naturally occurring layer, ozone acts as a protective shield against damaging solar radiation. But at ground level, ozone irritates respiratory system tissue and can damage the lining of the lungs, causing a reaction similar to sunburn. Ozone aggravates asthma, emphysema and other respiratory diseases.

    “We have sun pretty much all year in Pima County, but it is that intense summer sun combined with motionless air and long hours of daylight that increase the amount of ozone pollution in the air,” said Beth Gorman, Senior Program Manager from Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ).  In the presence of strong summertime solar radiation and slow-moving high pressure systems, emissions from fossil fuel power plants and motor vehicle tailpipes react with fumes from gasoline, industrial processes, paints, lighter fluid and solvents to create ground-level ozone.  This summer has been unusually breezy which, although annoying for some, has kept our ozone at much lower levels than normal.

    Over the last three years, the eight ozone-monitoring stations operated by PDEQ have reported ozone levels running at about 95 percent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Standard. “Exceeding the ozone standard would put individuals’ health at risk and could result in regulatory changes that would affect residents and local businesses,” Gorman continued. The U.S. EPA has been researching the health benefits associated with lowering the ozone standard to make it even more protective of public health.

    Children’s health is at risk when ozone levels are elevated because they breathe in more air per pound of body weight and they play outside more than adults.  Others who are negatively affected by ozone include senior citizens, people who work or exercise outdoors, people with lung disease, and individuals who are unusually sensitive to ozone. Residents can view up-to-the-hour air quality information at Air Info Now  to avoid unnecessary exposure to elevated levels of air pollution.

     What actions can be taken to reduce the emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone?
    o Avoid engine idling
    o Combine errands into one trip
    o Keep your vehicle well-maintained, including proper tire pressure
    o Drive less by carpooling, walking, biking, or taking public transportation
    o Reduce electricity use
    o Avoid the use of charcoal lighter fluid when barbequing
    o Use manual gardening equipment instead of gas-powered
    o Fill your gas tank in the evening hours during the summer, so the gasoline fumes don’t have strong solar radiation available to form into ozone.

    For more information on air pollution, visit the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality Air Monitoring Section or call (520) 724-7446.