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Summer Ozone Season Heats Up

Judy Fahys/KUER
Until now, this summer ozone season has been relatively pollution free. As temperatures climb in the next day or so, so are expected ozone levels

State regulators are forecasting increasing pollution over the next couple of days. It’s a sign that the ozone pollution season is getting underway and that it’s time to start paying attention to preventing it and taking precautions.

Ozone pollution affects everyone, even healthy people, but there are simple ways to deal with it. Rob Paine, a University of Utah pulmonologist, has advice about ozone pollution that is simple enough for a ten-year-old.

“I would tell you to get up and start playing outside in the morning and maybe kind of chill in the late afternoon on days when the ozone’s bad,” he says.

Paine says that ozone itself is an odorless, colorless gas. It mixes with other airborne chemicals when the summer sun’s out and builds up between lunchtime and the dinner hour.  Ozone injures the lungs, especially in the very young, the very old and those with heart and lung problems.

Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Air Quality Division, says an effective way to help prevent ozone pollution from forming is to avoid the emissions that create it.

“When we refuel our vehicle in the middle of the day,” he says, “the emissions are greater than if we do it in the cool of the morning or the cool of the evening.”

Bird points out that regulators are also helping to reduce ozone pollution. One way is by limiting certain fumes from household and personal care products, like window cleaner and hair spray. Another with a program to switch out old gas cans that leak ozone-forming pollutants.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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