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Region 7 Air Program

Serving Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and 9 Tribal Nations


Ozone Action Days

EPA-905-F-95-001
May 1995

A Special Alert for People with Asthma and Other Respiratory Problems

What's Wrong with the Air?

We hear a lot about depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere. This kind of ozone protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Stratospheric ozone is good, but ground-level ozone is harmful. When people think of ground-level ozone, they usually picture a thick layer of smog over Los Angeles. They don't usually think of a Midwest summer day--hazy blue sky, sunny, and hot. But people who live in the cities along the southern and western shores of Lake Michigan (Milwaukee, Chicago, and Gary) are affected by a severe air pollution problem--ozone. It affects outlying suburbs and rural areas as well as the big cities.

"Ozone Action Days" will be called when weather forecasters predict days that are conducive to ozone formation. The area's industries and individual residents will be asked to voluntarily reduce emissions that cause ozone pollution. Although ozone cannot be seen or tasted it can irritate lungs and make breathing difficult. The urban haze that we call smog contains pollutants that react to form ozone.

Most of the pollutants that form ozone come from cars. Large factories account for another portion of the emissions. Small businesses such as printing plants, service stations, and auto body shops, and people using lawnmowers, paints, and cleaning solvents account for another portion of the emissions.

Ozone pollution is of particular concern to the more than 500,000 people with asthma and other respiratory problems in the Lake Michigan area, because when it is breathed into the lungs, ozone reacts with lung tissue. It can harm breathing passages, making it more difficult for the lungs to work. It also can cause eye and throat irritation and cause a greater susceptibility to infection.

Ozone Health Facts

  • There is an association between ozone levels in the outdoor air and increased hospital admissions for respiratory causes, such as asthma.

  • Ozone air pollution has been associated with as much as ten percent (10%) to twenty percent (20%) of all summertime respiratory hospital visits and admissions.

  • Children with respiratory problems are at greatest risk because of greater exposure to the outdoors during the summer months.
What can I do to protect myself and my children from ozone pollution?

State agencies will use television and radio to notify citizens of ozone alerts. On days when your State or local air pollution control agency calls an "Ozone Action Day":

  • Asthmatics and other sensitive individuals should not exercise and should stay indoors in an air conditioned or well ventilated area.

  • If you experience symptoms such as tightness in the chest, coughing, or wheezing, see your doctor immediately.
10 Things You Can Do to Reduce Ozone Formation

  1. Instead of driving, share a ride, walk or bike.

  2. Take public transportation.

  3. If you must drive, avoid excessive idling and jackrabbit starts.

  4. Don't refuel your car, or only do so after 7 p.m.

  5. Avoid using outboard motors, off-road vehicles, or other gasoline powered recreational vehicles.

  6. Defer mowing your lawn until late evening or the next day. Also avoid using gasoline-powered garden equipment.

  7. Postpone chores that use oil-based paints, solvents, or varnishes that produce fumes.

  8. If you are barbecuing, use an electric starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid.

  9. Limit or postpone your household chores that will involve the use of consumer products.

  10. Conserve energy in your home to reduce energy needs.
For More Information

Contact your State air pollution control agency or the U.S. EPA U. S. Environmental Protection Agency at (800) 621-8431

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