It's that time of year again when you see signs on the highway and hear information on TV about ozone alerts. But what exactly is an ozone alert? We normally think of ozone as being way up in the atmosphere and protecting us from harmful UV rays. So if it's beneficial to our skin and it's not close to us, why should we be alarmed?
An ozone alert means that conditions are favorable for the buildup of ozone near the ground. Lots of ozone near the ground is not healthy, and it can cause damage to vegetation as well as irritate those with respiratory problems. When winds are light and there are a lot of vapors present (such as gasoline from car exhausts) and there is abundant sunshine, air pollutants can build up near the ground and they can undergo a chemical process that creates ozone.
There are several things you can do on an ozone alert day to prevent the unhealthy buildup of ozone near the ground. One thing you can do is postpone unnecessary driving. If you must drive, carpool if at all possible. Also, bring your lunch to work so you don't have to drive at lunch. It's best not to re-fuel your car on ozone alert days, but if you have to it's best to re-fuel in the evening after the sun has gone down. Also, try not to use your lawnmower or gas trimmer.
If everyone can do their part to help reduce gas emissions during ozone alert days, we will be able to greatly reduce the amount of unhealthy ozone at the ground.