Do you know ozone?

Most of us grew up thinking of hot, hazy days as a normal part of late spring and summer. But do you know ozone when you see it? Sometimes the haze you see (like that pictured here) is a sign of air pollution.

When the air is heated by the sun on hot days, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) create ground-level ozone. NOx and VOCs are emitted by gasoline-powered machines, such as vehicles, motorboats, and lawn mowers. These compounds are also released from fossil-fuel-burning power plants, refineries, oil-based paint, solvents, aerosols, charcoal lighter fluid, and even nail polish remover.

Ground-level ozone can lower air quality, making it difficult for people to breathe, especially those who work outdoors and those with respiratory diseases. Hot, sunny days present the highest ozone risk. On these days, people are more likely to experience aggravated asthma, reduced lung function, and respiratory system irritation. Repeated exposure may cause permanent damage to the lungs.

Controlling the production of ozone means minimizing the amount of ozone-making chemicals released, especially on hot days. These simple steps will help you reduce ground-level ozone and improve air quality for all of us:

o Limit driving and idling. Instead, car pool, combine errands, use public transportation, bike, or walk.
o Don’t top off the fuel tank when refueling your vehicle.
o Keep your vehicle maintained, including proper tire pressure.
o Maintain your yard equipment, including changing the oil and replacing air filters. Use electric lawn equipment when possible.
o Don’t burn yard waste or garbage.
o Use paint and cleaning products with less toxic chemicals.
o Refuel in late afternoon or evening.

Local ozone alerts are normally announced on TV weather or news reports and in other local media. You can also find current air quality updates.

Photo credit: yhelfman |  iStock | Getty Images Plus

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