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  • Health-affecting air pollution season arriving soon

    Apr 16, 2019 | Read More News
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    Inflamed airways, difficulty breathing, coughing and increases in asthma attacks are some of the health effects that can occur by breathing elevated levels of ground-level ozone air pollution. Last year, the air in Pima County violated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone standard for the first time in the 44-year history of Pima County Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality monitoring. With the help of the community, and Mother Nature, ozone levels could stay in the healthy range this year.Ground level ozone  

     “Ozone is one of the most complex air pollutants we monitor at our department,” said Ursula Nelson, PDEQ director. “It’s created during a photochemical reaction with two other pollutants when the weather conditions are just right. Ozone needs intense sunlight, still air and the right ratio of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides,” Nelson said. “We can’t change the weather, but if we can reduce the emissions that contribute to ozone, we may be able to prevent some of the ozone formation this season.”

     Ground-level ozone, as opposed to the ozone layer that protects us from the solar radiation, tends to be elevated from April through September. The U.S. EPA reviewed health studies in 2015 and determined that the ozone standard needed to be changed to make it even more protective of public health. Last year, ozone levels exceeded the EPA standard four times which was enough to violate the standard.
    If ozone levels are high, again, this summer, EPA could designate eastern Pima County as “non-attainment” for the ozone standard which may require restrictions on some business that want to expand or move here. “There are many actions we can take as individuals to reduce the emissions that contribute to ozone creation,” said Beth Gorman, senior program manager for PDEQ. “Some of the best ways are to maintain our vehicles, refuel in the evening, share rides, and drive and idle our vehicles less. If enough people incorporate these changes into their lives, we can help keep our community healthy - both physically and economically,” Gorman said.
     2005 Standard
    Real-time ozone air pollution levels are available on the PDEQ website and individuals can sign up with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to receive air pollution forecasts in order to plan ahead to reduce exposure and drive less on forecasted high ozone days.
    Additional information on ground-level ozone is available on the PDEQ website and graphs of historic ozone information are included on the following page.