If you’ve ever walked around downtown or ridden your bike along a busy street, you may have noticed that on particularly hot and steamy days, the air can feel thick and heavy. You’re not imagining it. You may be experiencing smog during ozone season, a period that typically begins at the beginning of April and lasts through October in Austin.
What is ozone & ozone pollution?
Ozone is a colorless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odor and powerful oxidizing properties, formed from oxygen by electrical discharges or ultraviolet light. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, ground-level ozone is the main component of smog and is the single most widespread air pollutant in the United States. Ozone pollution forms when nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (primarily released from combusting fossil fuels) mix with heat and sunlight.
Ground-level ozone, or smog, is particularly troublesome in Texas, with the combination of hot temperatures, sunlight, vehicle emissions, industrial activity and low winds.
Does ozone affect my health?
Ozone has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, as well as increased hospital visits. The pollutant poses an increased risk to children, seniors and those with lung diseases.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms these health risks. Its 2014 health assessment, Health Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone, linked the causal relationship of ozone to poor respiratory health.
How can I limit ozone?
Motor vehicles play a large role in ozone formation, so be sure you’re curbing your car’s emissions by taking public transportation when possible, or consider biking, walking or carpooling to work and school. Keep your car maintained and your tires properly inflated.
Read about more tips and tricks to reduce ozone-forming emissions during your daily life.