What can I do to Protect Myself on an Ozone Action Day?

By Bob Kelly

Hot, muggy days can make living in the city feel unbearable. When going outside, you not only need to consider the temperature and humidity, but also the air quality.  Often when a hot day is coming up, our state environmental agencies will predict that ground-level ozone may exceed unhealthful levels for people who are sensitive to ozone, and they declare an Ozone Action Day.

You might wonder: who’s in the group that is sensitive for ozone? Would you believe, construction workers? Yes, people who are outside doing strenuous work inhale more air than the average person, so they get a higher dose of ozone. They should do activities that require less exertion and save the heaviest lifting for cleaner air quality days, if possible. Other people who are sensitive to ozone include people with lung disease, asthmatics, children and older adults. Higher ozone levels can have adverse health effects for everyone. You can read more about in our EPA brochure on Ozone and Your Health.

You can participate in Ozone Action Days by doing less lawn mowing, less driving, and staying cool! Hold off on exercise until mornings and late evenings when the ozone is less and the temperature is lower. Skip painting or using cleaners and solvents with high concentrations of hydrocarbons. Defer using your gas lawn mower or trimmer until the air is cleaner. Can you wait to refuel your car until the hot spell is over?  If not, try to do it after sunset, when the sun can’t form ozone.

For more information, check out EPA’s AIRNOW site, which displays real-time air quality data for different areas in the U.S., and for more information about what you can do to reduce ozone during Ozone Action Days.

About the author:  Bob is an air pollution meteorologist with the Air Programs Branch. He enjoys taking a few minutes from reviewing state air pollution clean-up plans to pass along the air quality forecasts to help keep people informed about what is happening in the air around them. Bob’s passion for watching the skies above us includes giving people a heads up about upcoming astronomical and meteorological events.

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