OAP - The Ozone Action Partnership
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Ozone: Good up High, Bad Nearby

What is ozone?
Ozone (the molecular formula is O3) is a gas that occurs naturally both in the earths upper atmosphere and at ground level. Ozone can be good or bad, depending on where it is found.

Good ozone
Ozone occurs naturally in the earths upper atmosphere 10 to 30 miles above the earths surface where it shields us from the suns harmful ultraviolet rays.

Bad ozone
Higher levels of ozone are created by the combination of pollutants from many sources. Utility companies, industry, cars, gasoline-powered lawn equipment, paints, solvents, and even plants and trees all contribute to the formation of ozone. In the summer, higher levels of ozone form in the presence of heat and sunlight. Weather is a key factor in the formation of ozone.

When is ozone season?
Typically ozone forms on a cloudless day when temperatures are high and winds are stagnant. In our region, high ozone levels can be expected between the months of May and September.

What is our regions history?
For many years the ozone levels in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia have caused no concern. Last year, however, on two consecutive days in June one of the States air monitors in this area showed that we exceeded the national standard by a small degree. Also, EPA has set a new 8-hour ozone standard that is currently under review by the courts. The 8-hour standard is more stringent, and the state recorded 9 days in 2000 where this standard was exceeded in our area.

How does ground level ozone affect us?
Even at low levels ozone can cause a number of respiratory effects. Active children are at highest risk because they spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer. They breathe faster and have less body mass. Active adults who play hard and work hard outside are also at risk, as well as the elderly and those people with asthma or other respiratory diseases.

Ozone exceedances can also impact the economic health of our region. Should we have another day where ozone levels are high, our region could be designated as non-attainment. This could jeopardize our ability to attract new business or grow the ones we have, we could lose federal highway dollars, and the State could impose certain actions such as a car inspection program. Although many metropolitan areas in the U.S. will be designated as non-attainment, this is not a label we want on our region.

What can we do?
Our region has formed an Ozone Action Partnership. Government, industry, academia, and the medical community have organized this volunteer effort in order to prevent high-ozone days. Working together and by voluntarily doing certain things, we can make a difference in our air quality. The Ozone Action Partnership has arranged for meteorologists from TVA to forecast ozone action days during the 2001 season. When the weather conditions are right, local media will call for an Ozone Action Day and ask people to:

  • Delay mowing your yard or using gasoline-powered lawn equipment until after 6 p.m.
  • Avoid grilling out or burning yard clippings or leaves.
  • Drive your newest and most fuel-efficient car.
  • Carpool to work, school, or lunch.
  • Telecommute.
  • Avoid areas where your vehicle will idle a long time like drive-thrus or congested intersections.
  • Conserve energy.
  • Put industry action plans into place to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.

Why should we implement an ozone action program? We cant control the weather, but by working together voluntarily, we can keep our air clean and have a prosperous economy.

 

 

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