Ozone: The Summertime Air Quality Hazard You Can't See

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RENO, NV - The thing about air pollution is that we worry about it when we see it and we see it all too often on cold winter days, when a temperature inversion traps all that dirty air in the valley.

On a hot day like today it would seem our pollution problems have left us, but a lot of the stuff that made that dirty winter air, in particular exhaust from our cars, is still out there and with summertime heat and sunlight it's brewing a new pollutant, one you can't see, but you may have heard of--ozone.

If you remember your high school chemistry, you may recall ozone is O3, oxygen with an extra electron.

It's helpful in our upper atmosphere, blocking the harmful UV rays.

"But here at our breathing level it can be a problem," says Daniel Inouye of the Washoe County District Health Department, "because it will get into our respiratory system and it's similar to a sunburn in our lungs."

And as you might imagine that's a real health hazard, especially for some.
the very young and the elderly, those with existing respiratory ailments.

The good news is it's currently in the moderate range, high enough that those with existing problems should note, but below federal standards.

Inouye says we've exceeded those standards just once this year in May, but any hot day ahead with fairly still air could kick up the levels.

If that happens, the advice for avoiding ozone is just the same that holds for avoiding any summertime heat problems.

Take it easy, rest while the heat and the ozone levels subside and drink plenty of liquids."

And since we can't see it we can only keep an eye on it through the health department's eight monitoring stations and their daily readings.

The best way is to go to their air quality page where you will find lots of information about our air quality and you can sign up for something called EnviroFlash and receive daily emails about pollution levels.

You'll find a link here on this website under Hot Topics.