Front Porch Blog

The Trouble with Ozone

Everybody these days knows at least something about ozone. It’s that gas that helps protect the planet from solar radiation. There’s a hole in it somewhere, and it keeps getting bigger blah blah blah. What a lot of people don’t know is that ozone is a very common air pollutant, produced primarily by cars and electric generating stations. And it’s dangerous. Sometimes seriously so.

Now, I know we live in an age of danger. If the terrorists don’t get you, the burger you eat for lunch will give you heart disease, sitting in the sun will get you skin cancer, drinking soft drinks will erode your throat, drinking hard drinks will give you liver disease, and the list goes on. To that, you may add the following: Ozone, on a bad day, like the Code Red day Charlotte just had, will cause breathing problems in normal people, and dangerously increase the risk of asthma attacks for asthmatics. I addition, ozone has been linked to a whole host of problems for infants, including premature birth and cardiac birth defects. It is considered enough of a hazard that risk groups (children, the elderly, asthmatics, pregnant women) are advised to do as little as possible outdoors and run air purifiers indoors on a Code Red day.

The general guideline for ozone is “good up there, bad down here.” Yes, ozone protects the planet from harmful solar rays. It’s just not great to breathe with your morning coffee. In the US, ozone is emitted primariy by cars and coal-fired power plants, and at the moment more of both are in the process of being built. The difference is that cars have pretty tight emissions standards in this country. Coal plants, on the other hand, don’t. At least not right now. When the Clean Smokestacks Act comes online in 2009 it’ll be a different story, but for now coal plants are being built left, right and center with preciously little in the way of pollution control devices. An exception might be the proposed Duke Power plant in Cliffside, and that thing’s still going to produce tons of ozone-causing nitrogen oxide every day.

About the only thing the average citizen can do is be prepared for this sort of thing. And to that end… viola! Links to ozone monitoring stations!
This link goes to the Great Smokey Mountain monitor: Great Smokey Mountain Monitor and Webcam
This link goes to the NC Department of Air Quality Ozone reporting page: NC Dept. Air Quality: Ozone
This link goes to the US government ozone monitoring site: Air Now National Page





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