• By Bob Ragland
  • Posted Monday, April 4, 2011

Ozone Season Has Begun

Contact: Patrick Reagan
Phone: (336) 703-2447
Email: reaganpa@forsyth.cc

The ozone season began April 1st as state and local environmental agencies renewed their daily air quality forecasts for ozone in metropolitan areas across North Carolina. Air quality forecasts alert the public to harmful levels of air pollution, while encouraging actions that help reduce emissions.

Meteorologists at the Forsyth County Environmental Affairs Department issue the air quality forecasts at 3:00 pm every day for the following day. On Code Orange and Red days, the forecasts also suggest things people can do to protect their health and reduce air pollution, such as reducing their vigorous outdoor activity and driving less.

This is the fourth year under new ozone standards that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted in 2008. EPA is expected to adopt stricter ozone limits in July, further protecting public health and the environment.

The daily air quality forecasts focus on the pollutant likely to reach the highest level on a given day, which could be ozone or particle pollution. The color-coded forecasts show whether air quality is likely to be good (green), moderate (yellow), unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange) or unhealthy (red).

Ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen, can be unhealthy to breathe -- particularly for children, people with respiratory problems or heart disease, and even healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors. Exposure to high ozone levels may cause previously healthy individuals to develop asthma over time. Ozone also causes millions of dollars in tree and crop damage each year. More than half of North Carolina's residents live in counties where ozone levels exceed the standard at times.

Particle pollution, which consists of small particles and liquid droplets in the air, can be harmful to breathe and contributes to haze and other air quality problems. Fine particles can penetrate deeply into the lungs and absorb into the bloodstream, causing or aggravating heart and lung diseases. People most susceptible to particle pollution include those with heart and respiratory conditions, the elderly and young children.

Currently, North Carolina meets federal particle standards, but levels have exceeded the annual standard in several Piedmont counties in the past. Unlike ozone, particle levels can be high during any season or at any time of the day. Sensitive groups should take special care to limit their physical activity during periods of high particle pollution.

For more information about what you can do to protect your health and improve air quality, or to receive the Air Quality Forecast in your email, visit www.triadair.org.

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