Ozone Pollution

Good Ozone vs. Bad Ozone

  • There are two types of ozone:  Good ozone or stratospheric ozone, and bad ozone or ground level ozone
  • Stratospheric ozone is located in the upper atmosphere, about 30 miles from the Earth, and is a mixture of gases which protects us from the harmful rays of the sun.
  • Ground level ozone or tropospheric ozone is lies close to the Earth and is created when chemicals and gases mix together to form pollution.

General Information

  • Ground level ozone is “bad” ozone.  It is a certain type of air pollution that we also refer to as smog.
  • Ozone pollution is formed when nitrous oxide combines (NOx) with volatile organic compounds (VOC). When these two chemicals combine in the presence of heat and sunlight, ozone pollution, or smog is created.
  • The main sources of sources of NOx and VOC include: factories, electric utilities, exhaust from cars and trucks, gas vapors, and chemical solvents.
  • For a breakdown of the sources of ozone forming gases go to: http://www.epa.gov/region1/airquality/piechart.html 

Where is this a problem?

  • Everywhere!!
  • Nitric Oxide and Volatile Organic Compounds are emitted everywhere where there are industries, cars, trucks, and chemicals in use.
  • The complicating factor which increases ground ozone pollution is heat.
  • Other influencing factors that contribute to amount and location of ozone pollution are winds, driving and traffic patterns, and the time of day.
  • Classically smog is considered a summertime pollutant due the effect that heat has on its creation.

Risks of Ozone Pollution

  • Ground level ozone exposure is an irritant.  This irritation has damaging effects on susceptible populations such as the elderly, very young, and those with preexisting lung and breathing problems.
  • This irritation causes symptoms of chest and throat pain, congestion, as well as exacerbating bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.
  • These detrimental effects combine to reduce functioning of the lungs by irritating and inflaming the lung lining, which may eventually cause lung scarring.
  • This pollution also is harmful to vegetation as well by making plants more susceptible to diseases, weather, insects, and other pollutants because ozone interferes with plants ability to store food.
  • Smog and ozone pollution damages vegetation by reducing growth, further altering ecosystems, as well as causing an estimated half of a billion dollar in crop losses each year.

What is being done about ozone pollution?

  • The Clean Air Act was created in 1970 which was first formed to clean up air pollution.
  • This act was amended in 1990 which then required the environmental protection agency (EPA) to research and review the latest scientific information and standards every five years.
  • The current two standards under the Clean Air Act include:
    • Primary standards are those which set limits to protect public health especially that of susceptible people including children, elderly, and those with breathing problems.
    • Secondary standards are in place to protect the welfare of the public.  This includes advocating safety for animals, vegetation and crops, buildings, and visibility.

What is our current ozone pollution in Virginia?

What can you do?

  • Drive Less!
    • Carpool
    • Take public transportation
    • Walk or Bike
    • Consolidate errands
    • Maintain car ‘health’ to prevent excess emissions
  • Timing!
    • Fill up your gas when it is cooler outside in the later evening.
    • Mow your lawn in the evening when it is cooler.
  • Less Gas Consuming Toys!
    • Find other means for fun rather then using gas burning boats, four-wheelers, bikes, and other recreational vehicles.
    • Use an electric starting grill rather that one that requires lighter fluid.
  • Less Chemicals!
    • Limit use of chemical cleaners
    • Use latex based paint rather then oil paints and solvents that give off chemical fumes
  • Use Less Energy!
    • Turn off lights when you leave the room
    • Don’t let appliances run when they are not needed
    • Use energy saving appliances

References/Links for Further Information
Environmental Protection Agency- Clean Air Act
Environmental Protection Agency- ozone pollution
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
The Early Action Compact for the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Air Now- Ozone and Your Health

Developed by: Meredith Raleigh, Radford University School of Nursing

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