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Heat, pollution and you | Environment

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Heat, pollution and you
Heat, pollution and you


On an average summer day in Central Arkansas, gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment will release more pollutants into the air than a typical large industrial power plant.  That’s why Arkansans can make such an impact on smog in their area during ozone season and in turn help their neighbors breathe a little easier this time of year.

Ground-level ozone is the main ingredient in smog.  Air pollutants can come from cars, trucks, buses and industrial smoke stacks.  They can also come from gas stations, outboard motors, oil-based paints, cleaning solvents, lawn mowers, and farm and construction equipment.  When those pollutants heat up in the summer sun there is a reaction and the result produces ozone smog.

Although ozone in the upper atmosphere filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation, it can cause numerous breathing problems at ground level.  An easy way to remember the difference is this little rhyme, “Good up high, bad nearby.”  Ozone can either help us or harm us.  We have the power to influence its impact by the way we live.

High concentrations of ozone at ground level can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and eye and throat irritation.  People who suffer from lung disease like emphysema, pneumonia, asthma and colds have even more trouble breathing when the air is polluted.

Ground-level ozone can also make breathing difficult for children, the elderly, and those of us who exercise outdoors.  Children are at risk for respiratory problems because as their lungs are still developing they breathe more rapidly and inhale more air pollution per pound than adults.  An adult breathes about 20,000 times each day.  When we exercise heavily, we may increase our intake of air by as much as 10 times our level of rest.

Ground-level ozone also damages vegetation and ecosystems.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is responsible for an estimated $500 million in reduced crop production each year in the United States

During the summer months, ADEQ monitors ozone levels. An Ozone Action Day will be declared in central Arkansas when the ozone levels for the metropolitan area are forecast to exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which are set by the EPA.  So far during the 2011 season, there have been 10 Ozone Action Day alerts declared in central Arkansas and 7 actual exceedances. 

“When it comes to the air we breathe, even the smallest actions taken by individuals can add up to a big difference,” says ADEQ director Teresa Marks.

On Ozone Action days public agencies, private businesses, and the public in general should take voluntary actions to reduce ground-level ozone formation and minimize related health risk.

Because motor vehicle emissions contribute to about 60 percent of ozone concentrations, carpooling would be a simple way to help reduce levels.  You can also help your local electric utility companies reduce their ozone pollution by conserving energy at home. Here are a few other suggestions:

.-Reduce, Eliminate or Reschedule Driving

            Postpone or consolidate errands

            Reduce travel during congested peak rush hour traffic.

            Schedule appointments and meetings for as late in the day as possible

-Refuel in Late Afternoon or Evening.

            Refuel your car late in the day, preferably after 5 p.m.

            Don’t top off your gas tank! Be careful to avoid spills and overfills at the gas station.

-Postpone Mowing and Barbecuing

            Two-cycle engines, often found in lawn mowers are especially bad air polluters.

            ADEQ’s daily ozone forecasts are available on the agency’s website, www.adeq.state.ar.us. Additional information can be found at the Ozone Action Days site, www.ozoneactiondays.org