As the warm temperatures arrive in Utah, so does summer ozone pollution. Unlike winter’s thick inversions, ozone is odorless and colorless, and can typically not be seen with the eye. Reducing emissions from a number of sources is critical in limiting the formation of ozone.
“The summer season is starting so we expect ozone levels to be increasing,” Bo Call, Air Monitoring Section Manager said.
Ozone is a result of a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are caused by a combination of emissions from industrial facilities, vehicles, household products and cleaning supplies, and paints and solvents. When the right meteorological conditions occur, NOx and VOCs create ground level ozone, posing challenges to Utah’s air quality.
“The most likely days to see elevated ozone are hot sunny days that are also fairly stagnant wind wise,” Call said.
Breathing ozone can damage lung tissue and even low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory conditions like asthma.
Division of Air Quality (DAQ) scientists say to switch up your schedule if ozone levels are expected to be high on certain days.
“If ozone levels do increase then shifting outdoor activities to the mornings when ozone levels are lower would be a good move for any that might be sensitive to higher ozone levels,” Call said.
You can also help reduce emissions by switching from gas-powered lawn equipment to electric, riding public transportation, and driving cleaner vehicles fueled with Tier 3 gas.
Action Alerts Health Guidance
During the summer, DAQ meteorologists issue Health Guidance and Action Alerts if high ozone levels are expected. The guidance and alerts help residents plan ahead and adjust their activities during periods of high ozone.
- Action Alerts notify the public of the actions needed to combat current pollution levels. Three basic symbols are used to indicate unrestricted, voluntary and mandatory actions.
- Voluntary Action (symbol = ▼)*: Reduce vehicle use by taking public transit or consolidating trips. Industry should optimize operating conditions to minimize air pollution emissions.
- Mandatory Action (symbol = ): Industry should optimize operating conditions to minimize air pollution emissions.
- Health Guidance helps determine how the highest pollution level of the day will affect human health. These are the green, yellow, orange or red ratings based on how much ozone pollution is currently in the air.
Stay up to date by checking air.utah.gov or downloading the Utah Air app for hourly updates and three day air quality forecasts. You can also sign up to receive air quality forecast emails that are sent when DAQ issues action alerts and health guidance.