What is the Ozone Anyway?

I think we have all been guilty of throwing around terms thinking we know what they mean but might stumble a bit if required to articulate.  Case in point: ozone, the ozone layer, ozone alert.  Fear not – after reading this not only will you know the answer to all of the above, you will know what one local nonprofit is doing to encourage us all to help improve the quality of the air we breathe.

Definitions:

Ozone consists of three oxygen molecules linked together and as an air pollutant it can cause lung irritation, wheezing and coughing. Children, older adults and people with chronic lung diseases are most susceptible to its harmful effects. Good to know? Yes!

Ozone, a major part of smog, is formed when exhaust from motor vehicles or emissions from small engines, power plants, gas stations and paints combine under sunny, hot conditions.  These components combine to form ozone under sunny, hot conditions.  (I would have added dust and I would have been wrong.) When it occurs naturally as a layer of the upper atmosphere, ozone protects life on earth by filtering out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, but Ozone at ground level is very bad for us!

Who pays attention to ozone and its effect on us? Well, you might be interested in knowing we have organizations that do & they regularly monitor and collect information about our air quality to help ensure we continue to enjoy clean air. The following is good to know if you live in Tucson and if you don’t, connect with your local associations. I am on a list to receive air quality alerts and appreciate it when I get them.

Although Pima County’s ozone levels are currently well within the EPA’s health standards, simple activities like carpooling, refueling in the evening, reducing vehicle idling and routine car maintenance can insure that our air remains healthy. And I would call this the “Good to Know” section because it is almost June!

FYI:

• Pima Association of Governments (PAG), www.PAGregion.com, is the lead air quality planning agency for the Tucson region. As such, PAG’s Air Quality staff is responsible for submitting plans and providing information to the public to help us meet the EPA’s air quality health standards.

•  The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) continuously monitors ozone and other pollutants throughout the County. Real-time air quality information can be found at: http://www.airinfonow.org/.

•   Ozone levels in Tucson are the highest from May through September. You, too, can sign up to receive alerts when levels of ozone or other pollutants are elevated http://www.deq.co.pima.az.us/air/AirAlerts.html

And breaking good news for the future?

This summer PAG and PDEQ are launching an outreach program, Clean Air Starts with Me! to educate the public on the sources of ozone and what we can do to keep our air healthy.

And I shall keep you posted on this one. To know better is to do better and we will know better!