Today is well on its way to being a RED AIR day. At 8am, air monitors were already reporting ozone levels about .040 ppm. When the numbers start creeping past .065 ppm, I start to worry.
Ozone is a poisonous gas, the result of a chemical reaction between sunlight, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxide gases (NOx). It is characterized by three molecules of oxygen and is thus highly unstable, which is why it breaks down so easily indoors, in the absence of sunlight. Particulate matter, the scourge of our bad winter air, does not break down easily and is thus harder to escape.
VOCs + NOx + Sunlight = Ozone
For more information about ozone check-out this great website: Air Pollution Solutions.
But wait, you say, isn’t ozone a good thing? Are we not worried about losing ozone in our atmosphere? Yes, ozone up high in the sky is good (it protects the earth’s surface from ultraviolet rays), but down low it is harmful to breathe. The EPA has a good overview of the health impacts of ground-level ozone.
Breathing air heavy with ozone burns the inside of your lungs. OUCH! It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that this is not a good thing, so consider really limiting your outdoor activities and stay inside to play instead. Ice skating, indoor rock climbing, indoor swimming pools & indoor bounce houses can still get your kids’ wiggles out, but also protect their young lungs. Unfortunately, we are about to experience a run of high ozone days, but luckily a storm is expected next week, which give our lungs a much needed respite.
The Utah Department of Air Quality provides daily alerts regarding air quality (or lack thereof), so that you can take proactive steps to protect yourself and your family.
To reduce your contributions to ozone today (or any day!) and other hot summer days when ozone levels peak, Utah Moms for Clean Air asks you to consider:
* Postpone lawn mowing — unless you use a hand-pushed or electric mower — until after dark.
* Postpone filling-up your gas tank until after dark.
* Do not use spray paint or other paints that off-gas (they all off-gas VOC’s unless they say VOC free).
* Leave your car at home. Tailpipe emissions are one of the biggest contributors to ozone pollution.
* Use natural cleaning products that do not contain VOCs such as Mrs. Myers or even just the classic basics such as baking soda, vinegar and lemon. For tips on using natural cleaners — and saving $$ — check-out: Care2Care or the Guide to Green Living.
* Add green leafy plants to your house which can further reduce VOC exposure indoors. Cactus and Tropicals in Salt Lake City co-hosted a class with Utah Moms for Clean Air on how to purify your indoor air with plants. They are happy to help with your plant selection.
We must all do our part to reduce our contributions to air pollution and ozone is no exception. Please spread the word and encourage your friends, family and elected officials to take a proactive role in protecting the Clean Air Act, which currently is under assault by America’s big polluters.