Chances are that someone in your life is affected by asthma. Asthma hits over 25 million people, so it is likely a friend, relative, or coworker, has been struggling to breathe in recent weeks. You probably have seen them using their steroidal inhalers more often while others, like my wife, were forced to start taking prescription drugs such as singulair or prednisone to help open their airways.
The reason for this is an increase in ozone air pollution. You’ve seen the local weatherman on the news briefly mention today’s air pollution watch, or driven passed the signs on the highway that read, “orange air quality day, please carpool”. This is due to high levels of ground level ozone. So, what is ground level ozone? It is a gas consisting of 3 atoms of oxygen instead of the normal 2. Ozone is not emitted directly into the atmosphere. Instead, it is formed when volatile organic compounds and nitric oxides react in direct sunlight. Emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, and gasoline vapors contribute to the formation of ground level ozone. However, the main source is from motor vehicle emissions.
Ozone pollution is a greater concern in the summer months due to the strong sunlight and high temperature, which are the ideal conditions for the chemical reactions that form ozone. Ozone is a regulated pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Unfortunately, most of North Texas is classified as a nonattainment area. This means that our area fails to meet EPA standards for ozone concentrations, so we already have a problem with this pollutant that is amplified during the hotter months. Healthy people can also be affected. If you spend a lot of times outdoors during bad air quality days, you may find yourself out of breath easier or getting tired quicker. Coughing, sore throat, and chest pains, are some of the acute health problems caused by breathing in ozone. Repeated exposure can even cause permanent scarring of lung tissue.
You may be thinking, “but I thought ozone was good”. You are correct. The EPA has a saying about ozone. Good up high. Bad nearby. Ozone in the stratosphere shields us from much of the sun’s harmful rays. However, in the troposphere, or ground level, it is a pollutant that has harmful effects on people and will even damage the trees, crops, and other foliage. There are many things that you can do to help your friends and family breathe easier. Keep abreast of the day’s air quality index. You can download the Air Now apps for your smart phone, or sign up for email alerts at: http://www.enviroflash.info/signup.cfm. Whenever you see a bad air quality alert, be cognizant of the choices you will make, so that everyone in North Texas can breathe easier.
8 Things Anyone Can Do to Reduce Ozone
- Don’t sit in your car with the engine running. Avoid idling time in you vehicle whenever possible.
- Do not refuel your vehicle or lawn mower during bad ozone days. If you must, do so at night or early in the morning.
- Do not use outdoor gas equipment such as lawn mowers or leaf blowers. You can drive to from Plano to Lake Texoma and back home and still produce less pollution than one hour of emissions from your gas mower.
- Consider electronic mowers. Most residents of Collin County can receive a rebate for replacing their current gas mower with an electric....up to $150!!!
- Keep your vehicle well tuned.
- Carpool or use public transit.
- Use a propane grill instead of charcoal.
- Pray for rain.